(Reuters) – The National Football League season unlike any other got underway on Thursday night in Kansas City amidst a COVID-19 pandemic that has actually damaged the United States and ongoing demonstrations over racial oppression.

The Super Bowl champ Chiefs permitted less than 17,000 fans inside the normally rocking 75,000-seat Arrowhead Stadium and required the spectators to wear masks and stay socially distant throughout the video game.

The first seven rows of the stadium were left empty to create a “moat” to prevent any transmission of the infection in between fans and gamers.

The league has left it approximately the 32 groups and regional authorities to decide if it is safe to enable spectators into their arenas with coronavirus outbreaks flaring in much of the nation, where it has declared more than 190,000 lives.

As the season starts, 6 groups have actually stated they will have fans in the stands consisting of the Dallas Cowboys. Others like the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders have shuttered stadiums for the whole season.

Most are taking a week-by-week technique, leaving the door open for a possible partial return of spectators if or when conditions permit.

Because quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his group raised the Lombardi trophy in early February, the problem of racial injustice and police cruelty has actually exploded in the wake of a number of high profile deaths of Black people by police.

It did not take wish for the protests to make their mark on the league’s 101st season as the Houston Texans left the field during the playing of the “Raise Every Voice and Sing,” often called the Black nationwide anthem, and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Texans stated they didn’t wish to pick between commemorating one tune and “tossing shade” on the other so decided to go back to their locker room.

The Chiefs remained on the field for both tunes with the gamers locking arms during them. Just Chiefs linebacker Alex Okafor took a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” a gesture popularized by San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick in 2016, which created debate.

In July, the NFL said it would play both anthems before all Week One games. Previously on Thursday the Miami Dolphins launched a video saying they would remain inside their locker room during the playing of the tunes, calling the NFL’s relocation “an empty gesture.”

Thursday’s video game was the very first given that the Chiefs won the championship 221 days earlier as there was no pre-season.