NFL kicks off with much of Americans' attention on whether players will unite on social justice

“I’m going to do what I believe and what I believe is right” – K.C. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes

Updated: September 10, 2020 - 4:29pm

The National Football League begins its 2020 season on Thursday night with a marquee matchup between the Texas Titans and defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs. But much of the country’s attention ahead of the kickoff is whether – or what – the players will do as part of the ongoing social justice demonstrations. 

The players have not announced plans but are expected to publicly support the social justice movement, considering that National Hockey League and National Basketball Association players have already made public responses. NBA players refused to play last month following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black male, in Wisconsin, resulting in some game cancellations.

“I’m going to do what I believe and what I believe is right,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes told ahead of the season-opener. “I’m going to do whatever I can to fight for equality for all people. I feel like I’ve shown that over this offseason. I’m going to continue that fight.”

Earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league’s season-long social justice plans include helmet decals and phrases stenciled in the end zones including "It Takes All of Us" and "End Racism."  

The games, at least for now, will be played with a limited number of fans in the stadium. Roughly 16,000 will be at the Chiefs stadium for opening night. 

Football remains the country’s most popular sport. 

On Thursday, a poll for The Washington Post showed that 62 percent of Americans say professional athletes should use their platforms to express their views on national issues, amid calls for them to “stick to sports.” 

The wave of social justice protests across the country this year follow the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black male, who died while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.

President Trump has expressed disapproval for athletes kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before the start of games, and in July restated his position.

“Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!” he tweeted. Trump also expressed his disappointment with the NBA for cancelling games. 

Earlier this week, Trump’s son Eric Trump tweeted, “Football is officially dead — so much for 'America’s sport.' Goodbye NFL... I’m gone,” in response to a news report that the Dallas Cowboys organization will allow its players to kneel for the anthem. 

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