There’s always a lot of speculation about musical performers at the Super Bowl, but this year, for the first time I can remember, there’s also a shitstorm of controversy. After the NFL effectively blackballed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — every NFL team, even those that sorely needed a half-decent quarterback, refused to sign Kaepernick after he protested police brutality while kneeling during the National Anthem — performers are facing widespread criticism for agreeing to perform at the event.
Earlier this week, we saw the curious case of Travis Scott, who, alongside OutKast’s Big Boi, will join Maroon 5 during the Halftime Show. Sources — presumably sources close to Scott — leaked word that Scott had consulted with Kaepernick before agreeing to perform. That source claimed that, while Scott and Kaepernick didn’t necessarily agree over that decision, they found “a mutual respect and understanding.” But Kaepernick disputed that, indicating on Twitter that “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding” between the two.
Now USA Today reports that Atlanta soul legend Gladys Knight will sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. And after announcing that she would sing the Anthem, Knight made a statement to Variety, saying that the National Anthem should be a unifying force. Knight essentially implies that she disagrees with Kaepernick’s mode of protest. Here’s what Knight says:
I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice. 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.
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. 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.
This year’s Super Bowl goes down 2/3 in Atlanta.