KANSAS CITY, Mo. (NewsNation Now) — Thousands of fans of the Kansas City Chiefs trickled into the parking lots surrounding Arrowhead Stadium for the start of the NFL season Thursday night. The Super Bowl champions were playing the Houston Texans.
The Houston Texans remained in their locker room during the national anthem before their opener against the Chiefs in a coordinated display meant to bring awareness to Black Lives Matter and other social justice initiatives.
The Chiefs are among five franchises that have been given the green light to have fans in person. The number was capped at 22% of the capacity of the stadium, and that equates to about 17,000 fans. Most of those who arrived early huddled with friends under tents in the parking lots as rain continued to fall.
The Chiefs are using a pod system that allows fans to sit with their group, but that also puts a certain amount of empty seats between the groups. Most fans said they thought those precautions, along with the requirement of face masks, will be enough to ensure the game can be played safely with people in the stands.
The Chiefs and Texans arrived at their opener Thursday night without any significant health concerns, either because of injuries or the coronavirus.
The Texans had wide receiver Keke Coutee, fullback Cullen Gillaspie, right tackle Charlie Heck and cornerback Cornell Armstrong inactive along with linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Dylan Cole. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks was available after he was listed as questionable with a quad injury.
The Chiefs had defensive ends Taco Charlton and Demone Harris inactive along with cornerback BoPete Keyes, tight end Ricky Seals-Jones and offensive lineman Yasir Durant. They also were without cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who is serving a four-game suspension, and defensive tackle Mike Pennel, who is suspended for two games.
The Kansas City Chiefs lined up along the goal line about 30 minutes before kickoff Thursday night in a show of solidarity for social justice initiatives while a video played on the screens in each end zone of Arrowhead Stadium.
Along with the words “It Takes All of Us” on the screens, the video showcased Alicia Keyes performing the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and is often referred to as the “Black national anthem.”
The song will be played before every Week 1 game this season as the NFL continues to address social injustice.
The Texans had already left the field when the video was shown.
The anthem was performed by R&B duo Chloe X Halle from an empty stadium and streamed on the video screens. As soon as it was over, the Texans and their coaching staff ran out of the tunnel in the corner of Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs raised their Super Bowl banner and presented the Lombardi Trophy to the roughly 17,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium before they opened the season against the Houston Texans.
The team’s chairman, Clark Hunt, high-fived his family members at midfield as the Chiefs spilled out of the tunnel and round after round of fireworks shot off over the stadium. The team also wheeled out a 20-foot replica of the Lombardi Trophy during a relatively muted pregame celebration during the coronavirus pandemic.
The championship flag now flies below one from the 1969 championship — the Chiefs’ only other Super Bowl win.
The Chiefs stood along their sideline during the anthem. Most of them had their hands over the hearts.
The two teams then met at midfield to shake hands while messages such as “We believe Black lives matter” and “It takes all of us” played on the screen. They then lined up from end zone to end zone in a show of solidarity before the coin toss.
The Chiefs won the toss and deferred to the second half.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.