Arrowhead Stadium hosts the Texans. Alex Okafor, a Kansas City Chiefs defensive end, kneeled during the national anthem before Thursday's NFL kickoff game, lifting his right fist into the air as two teammates placed their hands on his shoulders.
Okafor was the only player on the field to take a knee. He said in a statement released by the team that he is "taking a stand against injustices such as black people being killed by police officers." The NFL has not commented on his action.
The protest came one day after President Donald Trump called for an end to kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" and praised the Kansas City Chiefs for removing Okafor from their roster.
"That was a terrible thing what they were doing," Trump said of the kneelers. "You have to stand for the national anthem or you shouldn't play football. And if you can't stand for the national anthem, you shouldn't be playing football."
Trump also took aim at other sports leagues and athletes who don't honor the flag with respect to military issues.
"So many people coming out against the NFL because of what some players did last year. They like what happened in Mexico. It's about time. Those players should be allowed to protest," Trump said.
Then some Arrowhead Stadium supporters reminded everyone of the purpose for his quiet protest. As Okafor stood alone, dozens of black balloons were released into the atmosphere bearing signs that read "I can't breathe" and "Stop killing me police."
After the game, Okafor told reporters that he was trying to bring attention to "a lot of things that need to be said" including "police brutality, racism, and injustice." He also said that he would like to see more black men in leadership positions.
Okafor is not the first member of the Chiefs to take a knee this year. Last month, running back Kareem Hunt took a knee during the national anthem before his team's game against the Buffalo Bills. He was released by the Chiefs later that day after video emerged of him threatening to kill another man if he did not get money from him. The FBI is investigating the incident as a possible crime involving violence against someone who is not a criminal.
Hunt has not returned to football activities and it is unclear whether he will be available for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. His status with the team is currently uncertain.
Both the Chiefs and the Texans observe a minute of silence. Before the start, one player kneels. Prior to the protest, Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor was the only player to kneel during the national anthem. During the song, the rest of his teammates arose, but the Texans remained inside the tunnel.
Okafor explained his decision in a statement posted on Twitter: "I am taking a stand against all forms of injustice. From slavery to segregation to institutional racism to police brutality to women's rights to LGBT+ equality... I believe we can do better." He added that he supports "the people who have been oppressed by these practices" and said he wants to use his platform as a role model to influence young people like him who are trying to make a difference.
In Houston, several other players demonstrated by staying in the locker room during the anthem. One of them, J.J. Watt, made this statement through a social media post: "It is my duty to the people I represent to protect their right to freedom of expression. Although I may not agree with everyone's interpretation of events, I accept that they exist for what they are: acts of defiance designed to raise awareness to problems still present in our society today.
Watt went on to say that he supports anyone who chooses to take a knee or display some form of protest during the national anthem.
The Texans entered the field for the pregame ceremony a week after staying in the locker room for the national anthem, with coach Bill O'Brien taking a knee among some of his players as the song played before their game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
O'Brien has said he supports his players being able to express themselves and that he was trying to show unity by joining them on the field. He said he doesn't think about politics or what other people might think of his decision when making it.
After O'Brien went down to one knee, several other players followed his lead. One player appeared to put his arm around O'Brien as they stayed on the ground for several minutes while others stood nearby looking on.
The NFL has not commented on whether it will punish its teams who do not stand for the national anthem, but it did say it was "moved" by O'Brien's action. It also said it supported their right to free speech as well as their right to protest racial injustice.
President Donald Trump had tweeted the day before the game that any player who does not stand for the anthem should be fired. But on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump had been joking.
Some fans have expressed anger over the incident with many calling for team owner Bob McNair to fire those involved.
Clark Hunt, the Chiefs' owner, offered a statement on the subject. Here's what the Chiefs players did during the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Chargers in Carson, Calif. (see video above). Tight end Travis Kelce joined the two players kneeling on opposing sides of quarterback Alex Smith. Kelce raised his fist in the "unbreakable" spirit of Malcolm X after he took a knee.
Hunt said in his statement that he was "disappointed" by the actions of some of his players and added that he believes "everyone should stand for the national anthem." He went on to say that he supports his players' right to free speech and would "like to think that we are better than this current state of affairs."
It is not clear how much influence Hunt has over his players, but it is known that he can fire them. The team president is Charles Haley, who also serves as general manager. His job status is unclear. Clark Hunt bought the team in 1999 for $140 million and turned it into a profitable enterprise. Before buying the team, he had built another successful business - Palomino Horse Pens, which sells horse supplies online and through several stores across the country.
There have been no protests during the national anthem by any members of the San Diego Chargers football team. However, several of their players did sit or kneel during the national anthem last season to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
At Arrowhead Stadium, fans celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs' triumph. Thanks to tight end Travis Kelce's vocal stylings following the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs will have a new touchdown song this season. "You've got to fight for your right to party," Kelce said as he seized the CBS Sports microphone. He later told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he wrote the song with his brother and friend.
Kelce also sang the national anthem before each game last season. He said in a statement released by the team that he was trying to bring "some levity to such an important moment in football."
Last year, the Chiefs used "Raise Your Hand" by Mary Mary as their victory song after it became the most popular choice on Amazon's music streaming service. The Kansas City Star reported that the team has employed a songwriter since 2011 when it hired Tyler Ramsey to write lyrics for Jay Z. Previously, the Chiefs played "Rock Chalk" during home games in 1970s-1990s. It is not known who wrote the song but it is believed to be performed by either Jerry Wallace or the Shirelles.
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said in a statement: "Travis brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our game films last season. I think our fans enjoyed hearing him sing the anthem before each game. We're looking forward to another great year of football at Arrowhead Stadium."