Legendary singer Gladys Knight defended her decision to perform the national anthem at next month’s Super Bowl amid the NFL’s ongoing dispute with Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who led the team to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, began protesting the anthem in 2016 in the wake of several police-related deaths of Blacks nationwide. The quarterback, who is half-Black and half-White, said he refused to stand for a flag he said represents oppression against Blacks and people of color.
Kaepernick became a free agent after that season, but has been out of the league since. He is currently suing the NFL for colluding to blackball him.
In a statement issued Thursday to Variety, Knight answered the backlash she received for accepting the invitation in light of the Kaepernick situation.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” wrote Knight, 74, who will be performing the song in her Atlanta hometown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.
“I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s Anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII,” Knight said.
“No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she wrote. I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us.”
NFL officials announced earlier this week that Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi of OutKast would perform the halftime show. All three acts have fielded similar criticisms as Knight for choosing to appear.