The biggest takeaway from the first game of the season between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans was the NFL shouldn't have fans in the stands. Not because of COVID-19, but evidently the country is so divided, so broken that even a modicum of respectful behavior is simply beyond our grasp.
In a moment when there should've been celebration that the NFL had returned and were finally getting ready to kick off their first game of the season, a significant portion of fans in Arrowhead Stadium succeeded in embarrassing Kansas City by booing their own players when they tried to have a moment for unity and equality, marring the franchise.
What was supposed to be moment of silence was interrupted by boos as players locked arms, simply taking a moment to recognize the unrest in this country surrounding the issue of race.
Imagine having arguably the best player in the entire league who just led the team to win the Super Bowl, who has been speaking out about civil rights and social justice, and then booing him for it. Nothing Philadelphia Eagles fans did to Santa Claus is worse than this. Fans in Arrowhead Stadium insulted their players in a way that locker room won't soon forget.
No longer is this about COVID-19 and all the damage its caused throughout the country and continues to cause each and every day. It's about common decency and respect for the athletes these fans allegedly adore, only to be disparaged for quietly taking a moment to reflect on the loss of life in this country that hits so close to home for them.
The focus was no longer on the excitement that the NFL was finally here, that all of the hard work team staff, coaches and players had put into to get to this point was finally set to come to fruition. The sacrifices they made, some choosing to live alone, away from their families in order to protect them from a possible infection, all of it wasn't just taken for granted, but treated with contempt. They were booed for simply suggesting that this country should unite behind the idea that everyone should be treated the same.
That it happened in Kansas City, where each of their two Super Bowl victories came with massive contributions from players fighting for civil rights and social justice is incredibly disappointing. It's ingrained in the team's history. In 2020, it's Patrick Mahomes, but in 1970, it was Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier.
"Those who evaluated me never thought I was as good as I thought I was. You see, I came into pro football with a heckuva purpose. I looked upon it as a helluva challenge to prove something. Being the first black middle linebacker placed me in an unusual position.”
Clark Hunt, the CEO of the Chiefs has to decide if squeezing that money in ticket sales from a partially filled stadium is worth the humiliation of what took place on Thursday night, which will leave a scar on what is supposed to be a proud franchise.
Maybe in 2021, the NFL can have fans return to stadiums not only when the pandemic is hopefully over, but when we as a nation figure out how to treat each other with even the slightest bit of decency, understanding that equality and civil rights aren't optional or oppressive. They are over a half century overdue.