What’s the Deal with Chiefs Fans Booing the Players Standing in Unity?

When I watched the game last night I didn’t realize this happened. Only today did I hear comments from Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. I also watched some clips from ESPN’s First Take. Watt, and probably many others are baffled at the reaction. I was a little perplexed myself. Here the two best, or least bad, explanations I’ve seen:

First, fans booed because they don’t want to see politics mixing with sports. On some level, this seems plausible to me, although Ryan Clark, on First Take, points out that fans don’t boo when players lock arms for veterans, or breast cancer–which is a good point. So why boo this political action? Would they boo, if they felt sympathy for black players who descry police brutality to black Americans? This is harder to imagine to me. Unfortunately, Clark’s explanation for the boos–that this is about helping black people–is hard for me to dismiss, and I genuinely felt sadness.

The other explanation I heard came from a Kansas City sports writer. He wondered if these fans were tired of hearing/seeing protests or statements against blacks. The best case scenario, for me, with regard to this reaction is fatigue at awful news. I get tired and worn out by bad news (e.g., with Trump, climate change, etc.) and sometimes I just don’t want to see or hear anything about it. But the players didn’t say anything, as far as I know. The gesture was simple–and intentionally non-controversial. There are those who believed there were other ways to protest, besides kneeling during the national anthem. Well, this was another way, but apparently some folks felt strong enough to boo this gesture. And that’s the thing, booing is a kind of strong act. Would fatigue of bad news lead to this behavior? I’m a bit skeptical.

Now, as I mentioned this is more benign, least bad, explanations. The other explanations are far worse.

6 thoughts on “What’s the Deal with Chiefs Fans Booing the Players Standing in Unity?

  1. What if they were booing because they didn’t kneel? Or felt they should kneel? This is the first game of the season and kneeling starting in the NFL. NBA guys were doing it? Could it be they thought the players in the first game of the season should be doing it too? The players claim they didn’t want to because there were going to be two songs, and they didn’t want to kneel for one or how they would handle that.

  2. Wow. I never thought of that. What are you thinking? Do you think the fans booing thought: “Screw the unity crap–go back to kneeling when they play the anthem?” In Missouri? Would there be someone supportive of the protest to actually boo a gesture of unity against racism–and separating it from the most controversial part?

    1. Just throwing it out there… I remember the Cowboys doing something similar, where they took a knee (Jerry too) before the anthem in the hype of the Kaep movement. Although I don’t recall booing, I felt like it didn’t go over very well.

    2. OK, got it.

      I remember the Cowboys doing something similar, where they took a knee (Jerry too) before the anthem in the hype of the Kaep movement. Although I don’t recall booing, I felt like it didn’t go over very well.

      But you were suggesting the fans booed because they were displeased the players didn’t kneel, right? As in: “You guys are whimps–you shouldn’t shy away from controversy. Screw the people who are offended.” In the Cowboys example, if people were upset, they were probably upset that there was a protest–not because they wanted the Cowboys and Jones to be more controversial.

  3. I liked what Mina Kimes said on NFL Live.

    We’ve spent so much time talking about the form of protest: kneeling, standing, arm up, hand on shoulder, staying in the locker room, going out. What it means, what would it take to make people happy or make them feel okay with it.

    What we learned last night, what we saw and perhaps should’ve already known is that the form of the protests never mattered to people who do not believe what the protests are about, or do not agree with it, as Ryan said. It was never about the flag for those people, the people who booed. The goalposts will always be moved, similar to the way in which, when Black people in this country are killed, the goalposts are moved: oh, how did he act? How’d she act? What was their story? It’s the same mechanism of dishonesty, quite frankly. And look, the booing, it wasn’t everyone and maybe it wasn’t even a majority, I don’t know. But it was enough people to remind us that when it comes to this topic, which is really so basic — it’s just human rights — we still have a really, really long way to go.

    1. When I read things like this, my impulse is to find a more benign explanation, partly because the non-benign explanations are truly horrific–horrific in a way that really saddens me. Unfortunately, finding that non-benign explanation is really difficult for me–not something that is plausible. I mean, Clark points out that the gesture to lock arms is non-controversial, sweet even–but people still booed. The possibilities for relatively benign explanations offered by Don and myself aren’t very persuasive. It is unpleasant to say, but I think Kimes and Clark are probably right.

      By the way, here’s a clip of Clark (2:55 mark):

      (On a side note, some of parts of his monologue is a bit confusing especially the beginning where he talks about two different anthems.)

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