The last time the NFL played, life in the US was still fairly normal. It was February 2 and the novel coronavirus was to the American public still mostly a mysterious disease overseas. There were less than a dozen confirmed cases in the United States. There are now more than 6.3 million reported cases in the US — and as a result NFL stadiums either will have a smaller amount of fans than normal (like Kansas City did Thursday night) or will be empty as the season begins.
There’s also the league’s shift on racial and social justice issues in the light of the killings of people of color, including Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
On Thursday, Arrowhead Stadium had messages in the endzone that said “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us.”
After months of concerns over whether the NFL would be able to kick off the 2020 season, here are the most enduring moments and images from opening night.
Texans did not take field for either anthem
The Houston Texans elected to not take the field for either the National Anthem or the Black national anthem.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” played first, which was sung by 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys.
The Texans left the field and returned when the anthem was over. The Chiefs, meanwhile, stood arm-and-arm on the field during the song.
Minutes later, when the National Anthem began, which was sung by R&B group Chloe x Halle, the Texans did the same thing — leaving the field and returning once the song finished.
Moment of Unity
While the Houston Texans did not stay on the field when both anthems were played, they returned to the field and linked arms with the Kansas City Chiefs for what they called a “Moment of Unity.”
“Please join us in a moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country,” the announcer at the stadium stated ahead of the moment.
Boos were heard from the crowd at Arrowhead stadium during the “Moment of Unity.”
Andy Reid’s face shield
In a sign of the times, Kansas City Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid and the face shield attached to his hat was all people could talk about before the game began. His face shield could be seen visibly building up fog as he wore it throughout the game.
Staff could be seen wearing face masks on the sidelines, and the small crowd at Arrowhead reminded viewers that this pandemic is far from over.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s remarkable rookie debut
Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a popular target in fantasy football leagues, and the dynamic back lived up to the hype with a remarkable debut.
The Chiefs’ first-round pick ran for 138 yards and a touchdown on 25 rushes, and he will be a dangerous addition to what was already one of the highest-scoring in the NFL.
Patrick Mahomes dazzles
Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes proved why he is widely considered to be the best player in the NFL, throwing for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
Mahomes made it look easy, as the Chiefs held a 24-7 lead through the end of three quarters.
While Deshaun Watson disappoints
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson had, by his standards, a pedestrian showing on opening night.
Watson threw for 253 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He added 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but the Texans were behind for most of the night.