▶ Watch Video: NFL gears up for new season amid coronavirus and social justice concerns

The NFL hopes America is ready for some football. The new season kicks off Thursday night in Kansas City. Fans will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the biggest test for sports in America since the pandemic started: the Super Bowl champion Chiefs are hosting the Texans in a game that is sending the NFL into uncharted territory.

“It’s a unique year and we are all aware of it, we trust the protocol,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.

Just under 17,000 spectators will show up in a stadium with a capacity of 76,000. Masks are required of ticket-holders. There will be no cheerleaders or mascots on the field.

“We believe it is much safer than going to a bar or having a whole bunch of folks over to your home,” said Kansas City health director Dr. Rex Archer.

“End Racism” is seen painted in the end zone at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday, September 10, 2020, in Kansas City.

Jamie Squire / Getty

Pandemic bubbles — like what the NBA has been using — was never seriously considered by the NFL.

“I’m sure that the precautions they’re putting in place are totally legit,” said Kansas City resident Marianne McKenzie. “I just for myself as someone who can easily get sick — I’d rather not.”

And there will be a seismic change on the field amid the movement for racial equality and social justice. A peaceful protest is expected before the game and players can now wear messages of support. At one end of the end zone at Arrowhead Stadium, the words, “End Racism” can be seen.

There’s a lot riding on Thursday’s game. In a couple weeks, the COVID-19 numbers will tell whether safety measures were effective here.

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