'Lift Every Voice and Sing': NFL to play Black national anthem before games, splits Internet

NFL to play controversial anthem 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' before 'tentpole events' this season to combat racism, but social media isn't happy

                            'Lift Every Voice and Sing': NFL to play Black national anthem before games, splits Internet
Denver Broncos at NFL. The league plans to play 'Black National Anthem' before 'tentpole events' in 2021 including kickoff and playoffs (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The National Football League (NFL) is reportedly planning to bring back the controversial 'Black National Anthem' for certain games in the 2021 season. The move is part of the league's massive $250 million commitment to racial justice, begun in 2020 after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. This year, the anthem will be played at 'tentpole events', a move that has not gone down well with social media users.

In 2020, the NFL made significant changes as part of its effort to contribute to racial justice, but not everything worked out well. In September 2020, we reported how fans slammed the 'end racism' message in the end zone at the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Former president Donald Trump also waded in with plans to boycott the league after it allowed players to take a knee. 


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This isn't the first time the controversy around the anthem 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' is rearing its head. Back in July 2020, we reported how a similar plan leaked and was widely slammed on the Internet. Despite the criticism, it appears the NFL is ready to try again, but a little differently this time.

Savannah Blackwell sings "Lift Every Voice and Sing," during a rally at City Hall as part of the nationwide Strike For Black Lives on July 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)


Anthem before 'tentpole games'

Front Office Sports was the first to break the news, based on a source within the league. According to the report, the league will make 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' "a prominent part of all league events." So far, the report confirmed the game will be played before the NFL Kickoff game on September 9 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. It will also feature at other key NFL events, like the Super Bowl, NFL Playoffs, and NFL Draft. 

It's unclear if the league will play the anthem before other games or if it will be reserved only for 'tentpole' games. Standard practice is to air the national anthem played before these key events on TV, so it is likely NBC Sports viewers will hear both the Black national anthem, and 'The Star Spangled Banner'. It is possible the NFL could play the anthem before other games, but that hasn't been confirmed as of yet. We did get a glimpse of this plan in action already, at the Super Bowl LV and the 2021 NFL Draft. Alicia Keys performed 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' at the Super Bowl, and The Cleveland All-City Choir at the Draft. It's unclear who will perform the anthem ahead of the Kickoff game. 

The plan is part of a wider program to combat systemic racism in the US. In 2021, the theme of the program will reportedly be "It takes all of us". However, unlike last year, this year will see more "targeted" messaging. That includes messages like 'End Racism' and 'inspire Change' at end zones, along with decals on player helmets and in-stadium PSAs. The campaign will then culminate in an 'Inspire Change' theme during the Playoffs. 

The message "End Racism" is seen in the end zone at SoFi Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Harry How/Getty Images)


'Shooting for lower ratings than the NBA'

Social media was quick to react to the news. One user trolled the lack of focus on other minority groups, saying, "NFL plans to perform black national anthem before all major events. What about the asian national anthem or the latino national anthem? Or the indigenous people's national anthem?" Fox News host Tomi Lahren said, "So the NFL will include the Black national anthem and “social justice messages” in the 2021 season. That should do wonnnnders for ratings."




"NFL will have black National anthem played next season guess they are shooting for lower ratings then NBA A holes," one person slammed. Another tweeted, "If the NFL really wants to show that Black Lives Matter, they’d directly donate to the most marginalized communities, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, apologize to and employ Colin Kaepernick. Co-opting the Black National Anthem is performative, anti-Black theater."




"The "black national anthem" being played at nfl games is the dumbest thing lmao," tweeted one user. Another slammed, "NFL is beyond stupid. Playing a “black national anthem” divides more than anything. There is only one national anthem, and it is for everyone in America, no matter your race or religion. No single person is greater than another. We are all one thing - human."




While some users praised the idea, it seems like most of social media was not too happy with the plan. Nonetheless, the league appears to be pressing ahead with its plan to get more political, at a time when most other sports are revewing, or rethinking their involvement. The NBA for one, has decided to remove most of its social justice messaging, with Commissioner Adam Silver saying "those messages are being largely delivered off the floor."