Numerous professional athletes and organizations were moved to affect change in their communities amid the racial unrest of last year. The defending Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs were no different.
Speaking at the annual Super Bowl Breakfast on Saturday, which was broadcast virtually this year due to COVID-19, Chiefs CEO and owner Clark Hunt said the murder of George Floyd was a sensitive time for his organization, the players in the locker room, and the Kansas City community.
It sparked an urgency for them to be leaders in their community toward unity and love.
“The Chiefs are in Kansas City to help unite our community, and that’s what really needs to happen right now,” Hunt said during the Super Bowl Breakfast, hosted by the sports ministry Athletes in Action. “We need to put God first, we need to put others second, and ourselves third. If we’ll do that, if we’ll reach out and love our neighbor, we have a chance to really make a big difference and bring our country together, which is what needs to happen as we go forward into 2021.”
Before the season started, players met over Zoom with team officials to discuss what initiatives they could take on. Hunt mentioned three specific areas they focused on: voter registration and voter turnout, helping Black-owned and other minority-owned businesses in the Kansas City area, and helping disadvantaged school-aged children get access to better education.
“So we’ve worked over the last six to nine months with them to put together programs in each of those three areas,” Hunt said.
Two particular players who have been vocal are quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who both led initiatives for voter turnout and registration, and were part of a player-led viral video that urged the NFL to take a stronger stance against police brutality and racial injustice.
The NFL responded by encouraging players to take a stance on those issues, and throughout the season fans have seen anti-racism messages on helmets, stadium decals and the fields.
Prior to the season opener against the Houston Texans, Chiefs players stood locked in arms during a moment of silence meant to promote the NFL’s new action. The Texans remained in the locker room during it and were booed by fans as they met with Chiefs players, still locked in arms, at midfield before the game.
Though controversial, Mahomes stood by the message he and his teammates were promoting.
“We wanted to show unity and we wanted to show how we’re going to come together and keep fighting the good fight,” he told reporters following the game. “I hope our fans will support us like they do in the games every single day.”
Viewers watching this year’s Super Bowl can expect to see more advertising promoting social and racial justice issues.
During the Super Bowl Breakfast, former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson joined a roundtable discussion with Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich, and television personality James Brown to discuss racial justice and what Americans and professional sports organizations can do. Much of it is what the Chiefs have already started doing.
“A lot of stuff doesn’t get taught to us over the course of our lives in school,” Watson said. “How do we get to a place where all of these things are happening in our cities and in the country? Where did that come from? As you said (James Brown), it comes to loving, but love is an action. Some people you’re not going to like but you’ve got to love them. Love is a verb, and when you love someone, you will seek the best for that person.”
For years, the Chiefs organization has prided itself on helping affect positive change and bringing its community together — loving others. From 2014 to 2019, through a partnership with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, local churches and Hunt’s direct support, the Chiefs offered their fans a nondenominational pregame chapel service, the first such recurring onsite faith event in the NFL. It did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic.
It was held every week there was a 12 p.m. home game. Because fans at Arrowhead Stadium would often miss their normal Sunday worship opportunities by attending Chiefs games, they could instead attend a service held in a pavilion near the stadium. The service featured a message and worship starting at 10 a.m. Hunt and his family would regularly attend.
“It guides you as you know why you’re playing the game,” he said. “You know that, obviously you want to win, but you’re doing it for something that’s much bigger than yourself. You’re trying to represent something that’s much bigger than yourself. I think having that confidence and having that trust lets you go out there and be who you are and play freely.”
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