The Slatest

Up-and-Coming Republican Josh Hawley Celebrates NFL Fans Who Booed Moment of Racial Unity

A line of players dressed in the Chiefs' red uniforms stands with locked arms in front of a sparse, socially distanced crowd.
Members of the Kansas City Chiefs stand during a moment of “unity” before their game on Thursday night in Missouri. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Thursday night in Missouri, the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans played the first NFL game of the 2020 season. The Black Lives Matter movement, in which many football players participated during the sport’s “offseason,” was acknowledged with some symbolic gestures. The words END RACISM were painted beyond one end zone, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was played over the PA system, and players from both teams linked arms on the field before the game for a “moment of unity.” During this moment, which was supposed to involve silent reflection, many of the Chiefs fans present booed (15,000 people were allowed to attend the game; they sat in socially distanced clumps).

Many observers felt it was in poor taste to boo during a moment of silence meant to encourage racial and national unity. Say what you will about whether the NFL can end racism, but it’s been made clear over the summer that the events that led up to Thursday’s “moment” are of personal concern to a number of players—prominently including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was the primary reason the team’s fans got to enjoy a Super Bowl win in February. The booing conveyed to these players that their interest in civil rights is, at best, a nuisance to the people in the stands, who, by the look of it, were mostly white (and, given that they had access to one of only 15,000 tickets to the defending NFL champion’s home opener, are probably mostly well-off).

That’s my interpretation, anyway. Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley had a different take:

This kind of thing—defending the prerogative of the well-capitalized white reactionaries who run most of the United States but doing it in terms that make it sound like the white people are the victims—has become Hawley’s capital-T Thing during his two years in the Senate. We’re basically in month 21 of his 2024 presidential primary campaign, which is, if nothing else, admirable for its ambition: It takes a visionary to realize that an NFL team called “the Chiefs”—whose white fans do “the Tomahawk Chop,” and which is owned by one of the wealthiest oil-and-gas families in the country, the Hunts, whose leading scion, Clark, the CEO of the Chiefs, is a major donor to right-wing politicians such as Josh Hawley—can be used as an emblem of “woke” politics because they very grudgingly agreed to recognize, for a literal moment, that their Black players are concerned about the frequency with which Black Americans are killed by police officers.

The “good” news is that this won’t work, because Hawley will split the “prep-school coat of paint on white nationalism” vote with Tom Cotton, and both will be easily defeated in the primary by Donald Trump Jr. (unless Ted Nugent runs).