It was a bizarre evening for the NFL as pockets of fans sitting in the stands were heard audibly 'booing' during the moment of unity that was held ahead of the match between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans.
The NFL returned amid much speculations surrounding the social justice protests that will be taking place. It may be remembered that the league was heavily criticised after its less than supportive stance when Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality towards African-Americans way back in 2016. The NFL has since relaxed its regulations, allowing players more freedom to express their social justice views.
As expected, there was a moment of unity that was arranged ahead of the opening night match. Houston's players decided to stay in the locker room during the national anthem while Chiefs' Alex Okafor took a knee as a form of protest. However, the crowd at the Kansas City Chiefs' stadium was not entirely supportive. According to the BBC, Houston Texans' defensive end JJ Watt was confused by the boos he heard from the crowd.
"I don't fully understand that. There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity," said Watt.
Likewise, Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas was left disappointed by the behaviour of the crowd. He took to Twitter to share his thoughts, "We're a good city of good people. I heard boos too. But we also have hundreds of thousands more around here who respect the message the players are sharing."
The NFL has just started its season months after protests were ignited all over the United States following the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Various protests have been launched around the world and sporting events have become some of the biggest platforms to get the message across. The statements have been mostly well-received throughout the sporting community. Hence, it was a surprise that fans were openly reacting negatively at the NFL opening night.
It remains to be seen how the NFL will react in the coming days. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans 34-20.