The 2020 2021 NFL (National Football League) season got underway on Thursday night, with defending Superbowl champions Kansas City Chiefs getting off to a winning start, defeating the Houston Texans 34-20 in front of stands which are only 20% full because of measures intended to enforce social distancing and the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
But some of the fans that were allowed to attend the game booed the players when they linked arms during a pre-game moment of unity as a protest against racism. Meanwhile, during the playing of the American national anthem Chiefs player Alex Okafor chose to take a knee, whist the Houston players remained in the locker room.
The coronavirus means that this season the 101st of the NFL is without precedent.
The annual player draft was conducted virtually, players began their preparations at home, pre-season games were cancelled, and 67 players opted out of the league campaign altogether citing health concerns.
And whilst Kansas City did allow some spectators back for their match on Thursday night, most of the matches will be played behind closed doors, at least for the initial three weeks.
One of the grounds that will be empty is the newly constructed SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, which will stage home games for the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams and is the most expensive sports stadium ever built at a cost of US $5 billion. It will stage its inaugural match on Sunday when the Rams host the Dallas Cowboys, but there will be no fans allowed into to watch it in person.
Kansas City are already the favourites to defend the title that they won earlier this year, and, in Patrick Mahomes, their 24-year old quarterback, they have the best-paid player in the NFL.
In July, he signed the most lucrative contract in the history of the sport, a ten-year deal which will see him earn up to half a billion dollars.
And he made an immediate return on that investment against the Texans, throwing three touchdown passes and notching up 211 passing yards from 24 completions.