As the National Anthem played to kick off the NFL’s 2020 season, the Houston Texans remained in their locker room ahead of their game against Kansas City Chiefs.
Speaking to the media after a 34-20 defeat at the hands of the defending super bowl champions, Texan players explained their decision.
Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson said the decision to remain inside during the anthem was made by the whole team. The Texans also were absent from their sideline during a performance of “Lift Every Voice.”
“We wanted to kind of separate the anthems,” Watson said during a post-game interview. “The team respects the military. We respect America. We respect everything that the NFL wanted to do, but we didn’t want any confusion or any negative flashback on guys kneeling, you know, standing for one and kneeling for others.”
On the opposite side of the field, Chiefs players primarily stood on the sideline during the National Anthem. One Kansas City player did kneel during the anthem with his fist in the air.
The Texans did return to the field to participate in a moment of silence to honor social injustice victims.
Star defensive end and Texans leader J.J. Watt told reporters the team’s goal was to show unity.
“At the end of the day, we’re brothers, part of a brotherhood,” Watt said. “We’ve had great conversations. We’ve done a lot of great things. It was a team decision.”
During the moment of silence players from both team locked arms in a show of solidarity. Some fans in KC’s Arrowhead Stadium could be heard booing while calls for racial equality flash across screens inside the stadium.
“The booing was unfortunate during that moment,” Watt said. “I don’t fully understand that. There was nothing in that besides two teams coming together to show unity.”
Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien told reporters his players’ absence from the anthem was not about the flag. He instead said it was about recognizing systemic racism.