I don’t know what we expected.
Despite the best efforts of a good chunk of America, everything continues to be a flaming dumpster fire. Why should the NFL’s first Moment of Unity be any different?
In case you missed it, those were fans at the NFL opener in Kansas City booing the Moment of Unity.
While the Chiefs remained on the field, arms linked, for the playing of Lift Every Voice and Sing (also known as the “Black National Anthem”) and the Star-Spangled Banner, the Texans returned to the locker room for the playing of both anthems. Afterwards, both teams met at mid-field for a moment of silence to honor the fight for racial justice. And that’s when the booing started.
Because this is where we are as a country. We can’t even acknowledge that racial equality is a laudable goal without it being somehow controversial. A significant portion of America has swung so far to the right, that people are booing the idea of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Of course, they’re happy to cheer for Black players on the field, just not off it.
The portion of the NFL fan base that was appalled by the boos were immediately white-splained by the kind of people who take part in Trump boat rallies that “it’s not about race, it’s about keeping the politics out of sports,” and that “sports have always been an escape from reality.”
So let’s be clear: Sports are not now, and have never been, free of politics. Before it there was Colin Kaepernick, there was Billie Jean King, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, and Jackie Robinson. We have worked through injustices as a nation as much on the field as off. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant, disingenuous, or both.
Moreover, the only people who have ever had the luxury of viewing sports as an escape are cisgender, heterosexual, white men. The rest of us have always seen the same inequalities in sports we see in society on a daily basis. Be it racial discrimination in hiring coaches and managers, violence against women, or athletes who spout homophobic or bigoted views, the ugliness of the inequities of American life are there in sports for anyone who wants to look.
I’m so sorry, fans at Arrowhead, that players dared to bring up issues that actually affect their lives and the lives of the people they care about. I’m sure you’d much rather have them perform for your pleasure at your command. How dare they remind you that not everyone has the same privileges you do. How unthinkable of them to sully your evening with reality. How absolutely tawdry of them to inject race into a sport played predominantly by Black men. How upsetting that there’s almost nowhere for you to go to escape the fact of racial injustice in America. Maybe try a maskless Trump rally at the bottom of a lake next time.
As for the players, you’re lucky they stayed on the field. I, for one, would have loved it if they had heard the boos, turned around, and marched back to the locker room, refusing to risk their health for fans who can’t even acknowledge their basic humanity.
As for the fans at Arrowhead, somewhere a whole bunch of white villages are missing their (racist) idiots.