(NBC News) — Thursday night begins with the much anticipated “NFL Kickoff” preshow at 5 p.m., then the Houston Texans take on the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
After months of back-and-forth between players, coaches, teams and the league, and in the middle of a pandemic, as well as a nationwide reckoning over racial equality and social justice, many fans wondered if there would be an NFL season, but it’s finally the game day.
The field is ready, so are the fans.
“They’re winners and they’re going to be winners,” announced Liz Murray a Kansas City Chiefs fan, as she pulled into the parking lot.
“We’re kicking it off, we’re the head honchos for the NFL, us and the Chiefs be able to show what the 2020 season is going to be like,” remarked Houston Texans Quarterback, Deshaun Watson in a news conference.
And from the start, this season will look very different than any in the history of the game.
Instead of more than 76 thousand rabid fans on opening night, because of COVID-19, only 17 thousand will be inside Arrowhead Stadium.
Masks will be required, concessions will be limited and fans will be spread out.
Still, Chiefs Coach Andy Reid expects a home-field advantage.
“I know they are going to be loud. That’s the one thing I do know,” Reid told media outlets.
But the loudest message as the season opens might be one of equality and social justice.
The focus of last night’s NBC-NFL prime-time special “Inspire Change.”
“I think everyone is in a position now saying OK, we need to do more. Let’s do more and make the change that is necessary that we all know as to happen,” said Roger Goodell the NFL Commissioner during the special.
After months of protests across the country, players say they’re eager to use their platform to continue the push for change.
“In order to move forward we’re going to have to love each other and we’re going to have to listen to each other and we’re going to have to begin to understand each other, ” said Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs.
A game plan with a reach much farther than the field.
Neither team has revealed pre-game plans for the national anthem, we do know “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “black national anthem” will be played before tonight’s game and every week one game in the NFL.