When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started sitting during the national anthem—and then kneeling at the suggestion of a veteran—in 2016, he pushed the conversation about racial justice and police brutality into the U.S. mainstream. Some loved him for it, some hated him for it, but there's no question that he got everyone talking about it.
However, widespread support for his message didn't come until this year. As racial justice protests exploded across the country and spread throughout the world this spring, a distinct societal shift occurred. And as sports have started making a pandemic comeback, more and more athletes have loudly raised their voices for racial justice. Where we had seen a handful of individual athletes kneel during the anthem, we now see entire teams in various professional sports making powerful statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The NFL itself has come out and publicly admitted they were wrong to try to get players to stop kneeling during the anthem.
Tonight is the first NFL game of the season, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans. The teams has announced that they were going to do something special to make a unified statement on equality.
First, twin singers Chloe x Halle sang an absolutely gorgeous rendition of the national anthem, while also making a powerful statement with their clothing. One of the singers wore a t-shirt with George Floyd's face and the words "Rest in Power/George Floyd" and the other wore a shirt with Breonna Taylor's face with "Say Her Name/Breonna Taylor" written above and below it.
.@chloexhalle perform the National Anthem before #Kickoff2020. https://t.co/aMS45Di8qX— NFL (@NFL)1599783988.0
As the pre-recorded anthem was played, many of the Chiefs players stood arm in arm, while one player knelt with his fist raised. The Texans chose to remain in the locker room until after the anthem was played.
Before kickoff, the teams met in the middle of the field for a "moment of unity" dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country. As the teams stood, seven phrases that were chosen and agreed upon by the players were displayed on the videoboards within the stadium:
- We support equality
- We must end racism
- We believe in justice for all
- We must end police brutality
- We choose unconditional love
- We believe Black lives matter
- It takes all of us
NFL fans booing the “moment of unity,” where members of both teams stand together, silently, and these seven player… https://t.co/d9Qo1RVsnD— (((David Vanderpoel))) (@(((David Vanderpoel))))1599784125.0
Unfortunately, it sounded like many of the fans booed during the moment of unity. It definitely wasn't silent.
The moment of unity prior to kickoff was agreed upon by both teams as well as quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Patri… https://t.co/C2rU65XvqC— Front Office Sports (@Front Office Sports)1599784329.0
It's clear that we still have a long way to go, and as the movement toward racial justice and true equality advances, there will be backlash, just as there always has been. But at least we're seeing it front and center now, even if it pisses some people off. No one can turn a blind eye and ignore it now. And it's up to each of us to decide what side of history we're going to stand on.
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