NFL to play Black National Anthem at all league games in 2021
The NFL has announced that it will play the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing, before all games during the 2021 season. This includes the September kickoff game on the 9th and the playoffs. It is part of the NFL’s 10-year, $250 million commitment to fighting racism in America. The move follows a league-wide test-run last season in which the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was played before the start of games in Week 1 and at Super Bowl 55 in a performance by Alicia Keys. Rap mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation has been advising the league on its “Inspire Change” initiative.
After blackballing elite quarterback Colin Kapernick, who knelt during the national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality, the league’s remarkable turnaround and sudden support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was seen as an astonishing about-face from three years ago. The majority of NFL players are Black, while the owners are white. Despite this new found support for BLM and the league’s eyes being “opened” to the reason for Kapernick’s protest, he has not been able to sign with a team since the controversy started.
Additionally, the league announced it will feature social justice messaging on fields, signage, and helmet decals and public service announcements, according to a report by Front Office Sports. The report says the Black National Anthem will be performed ahead of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It is unclear at this time if the entire song will be sung or just the first verse.
Conservative voices and right-wing media outlets such as FOX news are criticizing the anthem change as politically motivated amid a national cultural shift on race following last year’s police killing of George Floyd. Some are blaming Democrats and casting the Black national anthem as a major cultural concern.
Some think this action by the NFL is a pathetic excuse to pacify black players, along with the millions of blacks that watch the games, purchase the merchandise, and have season tickets. If they truly wanted to effect change, they would be allowing their players to kneel without repercussion, helping Kapernick find a home, and diversifying their head coaches, general managers, and front office jobs. A song is in no way a good start, it is just a pacifier that we are being asked to suck on and shut up in an effort to calm the unrest.
Since Floyd’s videotaped murder in Minneapolis was broadcast across the nation, some of the biggest and most influential names in corporate America, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, have fully embraced the Black Lives Matter movement and continue to express an urgent commitment to ending systemic racism in America.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written and composed by the Johnson brothers, a pair of influential men from Jacksonville, Florida. James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson worked together their whole lives, first in show business and later in the pursuit of civil rights. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday by John. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it “the Negro national anthem” for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African American people.
The complete words to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — the Black National Anthem
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Our native land