NFL season kicks off in shadow of COVID-19, participant prot…

Sept 10 (Reuters) – The Nationwide Soccer League season in contrast to every other acquired underway on Thursday night time in Kansas Metropolis amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the US and ongoing protests over racial injustice.

By Rory Carroll

The Tremendous Bowl champion Chiefs allowed lower than 17,000 followers contained in the usually rocking 75,000-seat Arrowhead Stadium and required the spectators to put on masks and keep socially distant throughout the recreation.

The primary seven rows of the stadium have been left empty to create a “moat” to forestall any transmission of the virus between followers and gamers.

The league has left it as much as the 32 groups and native officers to determine whether it is protected to permit spectators into their stadiums with coronavirus outbreaks flaring in a lot of the nation, the place it has claimed greater than 190,000 lives.

Because the season begins, six groups have mentioned they may have followers within the stands together with the Dallas Cowboys. Others just like the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders have shuttered stadiums for your complete season.

Most are taking a week-by-week strategy, leaving the door open for a potential partial return of spectators if or when circumstances allow.

Since quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his crew raised the Lombardi trophy in early February, the difficulty of racial injustice and police brutality has exploded within the wake of a number of excessive profile deaths of Black individuals by police.

It didn’t take lengthy for the protests to make their mark on the league’s 101st season because the Houston Texans left the sector throughout the taking part in of the “Raise Each Voice and Sing,” usually referred to as the Black nationwide anthem, and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Texans mentioned they didn’t wish to select between celebrating one track and “throwing shade” on the opposite so determined to return to their locker room.

The Chiefs remained on the sector for each songs with the gamers locking arms throughout them. Solely Chiefs linebacker Alex Okafor took a knee throughout the “Star-Spangled Banner,” a gesture popularized by San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick in 2016, which created controversy.

In July, the NFL mentioned it could play each anthems earlier than all Week One video games. Earlier on Thursday the Miami Dolphins launched a video saying they might keep inside their locker room throughout the taking part in of the songs, calling the NFL’s transfer “an empty gesture.”

Thursday’s recreation was the primary because the Chiefs received the championship 221 days in the past as there was no pre-season.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Enhancing by Michael Perry)