On Thursday night, the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs joined arm-in-arm for a “moment of unity,” prompting a torrent of boos from the few fans that were in attendance. Despite some initial reports, the moment did not take place during the National Anthem.
According to Fox News, both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — what has been dubbed the “Black National Anthem” — played prior to the game. Though the Kansas City Chiefs appeared on the field for both songs, the Houston Texans stayed in the locker room for the songs’ duration. When the Texans did emerge, they joined the players mid-field and locked arms as a show of unity. At that moment, the crowd noticeably booed.
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Speaking with reporters after the game, Texans defensive end JJ Watt said the moment of booing was “unfortunate” and seemed to come out of nowhere, considering that neither the flag nor the National Anthem was on trial.
“The moment of unity I personally thought was good,” Watt said. “I mean the booing during that moment was unfortunate. I don’t fully understand that. There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity.”
However, Texans coach Bill O’Brien believed that the crowd was not booing the moment of unity and was instead booing them as a visiting team.
“I thought that that was a nice thing to do, so I’m not sure why they would boo that,” O’Brien said. “Maybe they were just booing us because we had just come on the field as the visiting team. But yeah, I thought that that was a nice gesture.”
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he thought the moment was a “neat deal” and did not actually hear any boos.
“I thought that was kind of a neat deal, both sides coming together for a cause and the story was told there,” he said. “We can all learn from this, and really it’s just to make us all better, even a stronger country than we already are. We have a chance to just be completely unstoppable when all hands join together and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Earlier this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league would stand behind its players’ activism, believing that the players have not been listened to enough by the leadership.
“I would tell you that all of us, hopefully, are evolving and learning—we should be—and we all should realize that we have to do more,” he said. “I’m proud of what our league has done. I said it several months ago that we should’ve listened to our players earlier and been able to understand the things that were going on in our communities. We’re seeing that play out on television sets across the country. They have been happening in our communities for years—decades—and we have to end it.”
“Our clubs over the last couple years, and our players, have worked really closely together to try and make that difference in the community, to make the change, [to] make sure that the work we’re doing is actually leading to change,” he added. “And that’s the important thing for our players.”