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Last night, the defending Super Bowl champions, Kansas City Chiefs, kicked off their 2020-2021 season against the Houston Texans. Roughly 16,000 fans were in attendance at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs, despite CDC warnings against large gatherings.
Which is the first indicator of what type of folks you were dealing with.
The moment that has grabbed news headlines and lit up social media was when members of the Chiefs and Texans linked arms in the middle of the field in a gesture of racial solidarity. As the stadium’s sound system played the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a chorus of boos were spewed at the players’ display of unity. Fans in the “Show Me” state of Missouri where the Chiefs are housed showed their racial animus towards a moment they felt politicized the game they came to watch.
The irony of their position is rich.
If I was to take a wild guess at the political leanings of the booing fans, I would guess they were likely Trump supporters. If my hypothesis would prove correct, they would have no room to fix their lips to say anything about players “politicizing” the game when it was Donald Trump who went on several Twitter tirades about NFL players who did not stand for the national anthem. So why might these fans have a differing opinion about players seeking to make a statement of equality?
The first logical answer would be that those fans are bigots. After all, they are the same folks who engage in a stadium-size “Tomahawk” war chant when the Chiefs are on the field, which if you did not know is an egregiously offensive stereotypical trope against Indigenous people.
The other thing is that they happily slather their faces with “tribal paint” and take no issue with the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs are still named the Kansas City Chiefs. The franchise, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, temporarily renamed themselves to the Washington Football Team after years of backlash behind the culturally and racially insensitive team name and insignia.
The Chiefs? Not so much.
And so it does not take a great deal of mental gymnastics to understand why fans of this variety would loudly express opposition to any gesture that does not align with nationalism, or Black players and their allies keeping quiet and running down the field.
They are the type of fans that completely validate the kneeling and anthem protests. Their behavior symbolizes the type of vitriol Colin Kaepernick received when he began protesting police violence in the league four years ago.
Their brand of “fandom” is the reason the NFL still will not give Kaepernick a job.