Is NFL right to play ‘Black national anthem’ before games?


Fact Box

  • The National Football League (NFL) is an expansive US professional football organization that was established in 1920 in Canton, Ohio. It started with teams from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Michigan, but expanded since then to six new franchises.
  • The NFL announced their plan to play the Black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” before the original anthem of each game during Week 1 of the 2021 season. They are also debating on allowing players to display names of victims of police brutality on football gear. 
  • A performance on Independence Day of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Vanessa Williams started the controversy as people called it “divisive” and “ridiculous.”
  • President Woodrow Wilson declared “The Star-Spangled Banner” to be the national anthem in 1916, but it did not become official until March 1931. 
  • The national anthem gained more popularity after Game 1 of the 1918 World Series. By the end of World War II, the NFL Commissioner ordered it “to be played at every football game” and has since been a tradition for many games across the states.

Stephanie (No)

The entire flag kneeling disgrace that caused athletes such as Colin Kaepernick to make headlines (and millions) has gone way too far. Yes, police brutality and racial inequality exist in varying degrees throughout the nation (and nations elsewhere), but disrespecting the American National Anthem is not the best way to approach this. Anyone with doubts can simply look at the division this issue has caused. The National Football League's allowance of this continued protest is highly indicative that it has biased feelings on the matter. 

While some may identify with the song 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing,' otherwise known as the 'Black National Anthem,' many do not. In fact, not a single African American slave before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment is alive today, so it technically applies to no one other than for heritage reasons. However, the traditionally played National Anthem does apply to all Americans, including athletes.

Even more disrespectful is that the 'Black National Anthem' is set to be played before the National Anthem as if it is somehow more prominent. The NFL's continued emphasis on allowing these types of policies makes one wonder if it truly even cares about the issues it promotes or if it simply benefits from the ratings and attention.

Above all, seriously, why must we bring political protests into sporting games? Events such as these are supposed to be neutral, yet even former NFL star Jack Brewer commented that the NFL has 'gone straight to political advocacy.' And indeed, it has in continuing to fuel the fire in almost glorifying the issue of racial inequality at the expense of our nation's unity.


Kevin (Yes)

Sports—especially professional football—play a large role in American society, and the NFL has an excellent platform for raising awareness. Writer Chris Humpherys pointed out on his blog that he wasn't even previously aware of the existence of a Black national anthem, and it's safe to assume he isn't alone in that ignorance. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has admitted that 'the league was wrong' in their handling of players' peaceful protests of police brutality in recent years. He has apparently 'pledg[ed] his allegiance to equal justice,' and while this may be a relatively small gesture, it is a step in that direction. The addition of another song to pre-game events isn't going to bring an end to our racial issues. Still, it will undoubtedly stir conversation, and as Goodell said, 'Without black players, there would be no National Football League.'

Humpherys also brought up another good point in his blog post: other songs, such as popular music with no national significance, have been played directly before or after the national anthem, with nobody raising an issue. 'Lift Ev'ry Voice And Sing' will not be replacing 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' and adding it to the lineup does nothing more to disrespect or detract from the other tradition than any other pre-game song or event. In fact, it could be argued that it is a better, more wholesome addition than many of the more commercial aspects of such events. It seems rather hypocritical, if not outright racist, to take issue with this addition alone.

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