Kansas City Chiefs fans booed players during a moment of silence “dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality” on Thursday, during the NFL’s season opener.
Players on the Chiefs and the Houston Texans gathered in the middle of the Arrowhead Stadium field just ahead of kickoff, linked arms and asked for “a moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country,” according to an NFL statement, which included the hashtag “It Takes All of Us.”
But as Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City coach Andy Reid, Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Houston defensive end J.J. Watt took center stage, boos could be clearly heard from significant portions of the nearly 16,000 fans in attendance.
City Councilman Eric Bunch called the incident “embarrassing” and told Chiefs fans to “do better.”
“Some NFL fans booing the players for standing and locking arms in a moment of silent unity proves that for them ‘standing for the flag’ was always about perpetuating white supremacy,” the councilman said in a statement.
Bunch’s council colleague Andrea Bough vowed that the boos won’t slow the fight against systemic racism.
“And it steels our resolve to continue the fight for justice and against racism here in Kansas City and throughout the Country,” Bough wrote in a retweet of actor Vincent D’Onofrio, who called the booing a failed “litmus test.”
And Kansas City Star sports columnist Vahe Gregorian lambasted booing fans, whose disapproval rang loud and clear to a national TV audience.
“Because with Kansas City in the national spotlight for what is a massive television audience to launch the NFL season amid the chaos of the pandemic, more than a few voices resonated in nasty, embarrassing fashion before the game,” the sports columnist wrote.
“The derision spoke volumes, betraying the city and team in both senses of the word. It broke faith with the players they apparently support only as gladiators, and it revealed anew that an appeal for equality is offensive to some even during this great awakening and reckoning.”
Mayor Quinton Lucas said the booing did not represent the people of Kansas City.
“We’re a good city of good people. I heard boos too,” he tweeted. “But we also have hundreds of thousands more around here who respect the message the players are sharing; who respect the rights of our players and people to voice a strong message and who are working to make us better each day.”
Thursday night’s game, won 34-20 by the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, kicked off the 101st season of NFL play.
Kansas City is one of the few teams allowing fans in for games amid the pandemic. The announced crowd of 15,895 was a little more than 20 percent of Arrowhead Stadium’s capacity of more than 76,000.