Black ExperienceSportsStacy M. Brown

NFL Will Play Black National Anthem at Games

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the national anthem to bring awareness to social and other injustices faced regularly by Black and brown individuals in America, the NFL, President Donald Trump and others wrongly associated the quarterback’s actions as a protest against the the U.S. flag and the nation’s military.

In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, protests and demonstrations have awakened America and most of the world to the plight of African Americans who long have suffered injustice, inequality and an overall lack of understanding.

The NFL remains at the forefront of the new understanding, and now they’ve taken that knowledge and, in an unprecedented decision, announced it would play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — widely recognized as the Black National Anthem — before every Week 1 game this year.

The performance of the song will occur before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the NFL said. The league’s season opener is scheduled for Sept. 10, with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley called the move “a great way to honor those who started this movement year and years ago.”

“For those who aren’t familiar with it, this song seeks to remind us of our past as a country and to strive to be better,” Conley tweeted. “It speaks to all of us, not just Black people, even tho it became a rallying cry for blacks in the Jim Crow era. It is a beautiful message birthed from pain.

“To those claiming the song is derisive, I ask which part? Much like America the Beautiful is played to honor, this song is the same. It’s isn’t for ‘just black people’ it’s for all who acknowledge the past and press toward a better future,” he wrote.

As noted in Sports Illustrated, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has an extensive history since its first inception as a poem in 1899. According to the NAACP, its lyrics were penned by writer and NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, with his brother John Rosamond Johnson eventually adding music. Years later, it was adopted by the NAACP as the organization’s official song.  

According to the NAACP, the song was first performed in James Weldon Johnson’s native Jacksonville at a school where he was the principal. As part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was publicly performed by 500 schoolchildren at the Stanton School.

The NFL has recently acknowledged it was wrong in how it handled Kaepernick, who has accused the league of blackballing him after his last contract with the San Francisco 49ers ended in 2017. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he now would encourage teams to sign the former Super Bowl quarterback.

Once Goodell has reversed course and said he would allow kneeling, the league again came under enormous criticism from President Donald Trump, who now is calling for a boycott of the NFL.  

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the decision to play the song “asinine,” further fueling racial tensions that have already boiled over since Floyd’s death.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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