The NFL plans to play the ‘black national anthem’ before every game in the first week of the 2021 season, according to a new report.
Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing, will be performed before The Star-Spangled Banner to kick off each game in Week 1, beginning with the September 10 season opener when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans.
A source familiar with the league’s discussions confirmed the controversial change to ESPN’s The Undefeated on Thursday.
The NFL, in collaboration with the NFL Players Association, is also considering featuring names of victims who suffered police brutality on uniforms, helmets or patches on jerseys, the source said.
The decision comes as the league hopes to demonstrate ‘a genuine commitment to the public, players and coaches and that player voices continue to be heard,’ the source wrote in a text message.
‘This is key to educating fans, and becoming a prominent voice in the fight to end racism,’ they said.
The source said the league is also considering producing educational programs about police brutality victims, among other plans.
Front Office Sports – which broke the story about the black national anthem being played before games on Wednesday – said the NFL plans to make it a ‘prominent part of big league events’.
The outlet reported that it could be played before primetime games, the Super Bowl and the NFL draft, in addition to Week 1 games.
The NFL has recently displayed increased awareness over racism after years of criticism, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitting the league was wrong in how it approached NFL player protesting police brutality over the past few years.
In a one-minute, 21-second video uploaded to Goodell’s Twitter account last month, the NFL commissioner condemned racism, pledging his allegiance to equal justice for players and affirming that black lives do matter.
‘We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,’ Goodell said.
‘We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter.’
Goodell continued by saying he would begin connecting with players who are making their voices heard.
‘Without black players, there would be no National Football League, and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,’ he said.
Goodell released the video as a response to requests made by more than a dozen star players, quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes Deshaun Watson.
The league also revealed plans to increase its social justice footprint by pledging to donate $250million over a 10-year period, ESPN reports.
In 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, along with other NFL players, began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness of racial injustices.
The demonstrations ignited national debate, with NFL owners taking side of those who thought players should stand during the anthem because it was considered disrespectful and unpatriotic.
However, the players continually insisted kneeling wasn’t about the American flag, nor a symbol of their patriotism.
Kaepernick was released from the 49ers in 2016, settling a collusion claim with the NFL in 2019.
News of the NFL’s plans to play Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing before games was met with largely negative reactions on Twitter.
Fox News correspondent Tomi Lahren tweeted: ‘So the NFL will include the black national anthem and “social justice messages” in the 2021 season. That should do wonders for ratings.’
Another critic added: ‘Why do we need another national anthem? Who chose it? Just more ways to divide us and make generate racism in our nation. Shame on the NFL.’
‘The @NFL and @nflcommish are completely woke, deciding that the so called black anthem should be played before every NFL game,’ a third critic wrote.
‘What this appears to be is a self imposed return to segregation. Everything MLK fought for is being undone by BLM and ignorant clowns like Goodell.’
A small group praised the decision, pointing out that the majority of NFL players are black while condemning critics for making such a big fuss.
‘Why wouldn’t they?! Did you have objections to the Star Spangled banner?!’ one proponent tweeted. ‘Eighty five % of the NFL is BLACK! Why not play, Lift every voice and sing! It’s the Blk/National Anthem and it’s beautiful! Take a listen and listen with ur heart! You might learn something!’
Another supporter wrote: ‘It tickles me that white people have issues with the NFL playing the Black National Anthem at football games but don’t grasp the concept that the league is over 75% black. Let’s see how your games are gonna go without having these black men on the field. Don’t worry…I’ll wait!’
Fox News anchor Sean Hannity dedicated an entire segment of his show to attacking the new policy on Thursday night, saying it was a sign that ‘so-called liberals are attempting to politicize sports’.
‘This is a really bad idea,’ Hannity said as he hit out at the NFL as well as other professional sports leagues including the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball for ‘going deeper into politics as their ratings continue to dive’.
He said that the politicization of sports has fans ‘turned off.’
‘People…kind of like to go to games because it’s a distraction from everyday life,’ Hannity said.
‘Everybody there has a shared passion for a sport and a home team. It’s a uniting moment.’
Hannity added: ‘And now of course the social justice warriors will ruin that.’
Hannity praised the National Hockey League for the ‘patriotism’ that was on display after fans at a recent Tampa Bay Lightning – New York Islanders playoff game sang the national anthem in unison.
‘There is nothing wrong with our flag, our great anthem,’ Hannity said.
‘It doesn’t need to be redesigned in any way. It’s the greatest country god gave man and we don’t need to be ashamed all the time, or apologizing all the time.’
Public broadcaster PBS sparked similar outrage earlier this month when it invited Vanessa Williams to sing the same song during its nationally televised Fourth of July celebration in front of the US Capitol. Williams sang the song as a nod to Juneteenth being codified into law this year as a federal holiday.
Story cited here.