national anthem on Sunday in mostly empty stadiums, avoiding the embarrassment of fans booing that overshadowed the season opener.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the only team hosting a Week One game allowing fans in on Sunday, so there were no repeats of Thursday's scenes at Arrowhead Stadium when members of the Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans were booed during a moment of silence for social justice.

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The Jaguars took no chances and like several teams remained in the locker room during the singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," often called the Black national anthem, and the "Star-Spangled Banner".

"Our solidarity is stronger than any difference that threatens to divide us," said the Jaguars in a statement issued prior to kickoff. "We are a united team.

"We understand that not everyone will agree with our position and demonstration, however we hope that all will seek to understand the reason for it. We all want the same thing: equality and justice."

Opponents the Indianapolis Colts were, however, on the sidelines where head coach Frank Reich stepped forward and knelt during the national anthem as players locked arms behind him.

"Our intent is to bring attention to the issue of systemic racism and the injustice inherit therein," said the Colts in a lengthy statement. "To be clear – we were not protesting the flag, the anthem, or the men and women who wear the uniform.

"The timing of this action is meant to highlight that the presence, power, and oppression of racism remains inconsistent with the unity and freedoms of what it means to be an American."

Players took to the field following a close season during which social justice issues rose to the fore, triggered by the killing of an unarmed Black man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and the police shooting of another Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, teams representing the two states that were the scene of those events, met in Week One in Minneapolis.

The Green Bay Packers remained in the locker room during the pre-game anthems while several members of the Vikings took a knee.

The NFL, which for years had been locked in debate with players over kneeling protests changed course in June when it said the league made mistakes in not listening to its players on the issue.

Four years ago San Francisco 49ers Black quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked controversy and a movement by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to put a spotlight on police brutality.

The 49ers will host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in a later game.

The protest and pandemic distracted from some juicy matchups that would have otherwise dominated the Week One buildup.

The sporting spotlight will be on New Orleans and a showdown between a pair of 40-year-old future Hall of Fame quarterbacks with Drew Brees and the Saints taking on Tom Brady in his first game with his new team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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20/10/2020 AT 17:32