Sunday, January 24, 2021

Black NFL Fans Slam Plan to Play ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ Before Games

black NFL players

*Black NFL fans are speaking out against the league’s plan to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to each game during Week 1 of the upcoming season.

The song, considered the Black National Anthem, was originally written as a poem by civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson in 1899. It was later set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson, per TMZ.

The announcement comes after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently apologized for the league’s handling of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests and the movement he inspired. 

But fans of the sport are giving the side-eye to the NFL’s attempt to fight racial injustice through the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing. 

“It’s blatant pandering to public sentiment,” football fan Rodney Coates told NBC News. “It would be a publicity stunt. There are so many ways to show its commitment. If it were serious it would open pathways for opportunities in a number of ways. But a song? No.”

As noted by MSN, many Black fans share Coates’ sentiments.

“I wouldn’t say it’s placating, because that would infer negative intentions,” said Nolan Rollins, chief executive of tech company SMRT Mouth. “I don’t think that’s the intention. But there is little to nothing we can do with symbolism. And really, it would probably be more effective to play Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America,’ as the young people who are leading this charge likely do not connect with ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ as the previous generation.”

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“If the NFL wants to make a tangible difference, this isn’t the way to do it. If you really want to show that you stand in solidarity with the Black players and with the communities they want to stand with and represent, there has to be a solid plan,” he said.

“The plan can’t be 72 bars of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ It’s not going to do what they think it would do. It will raise questions about if they are serious about helping.”

Pittsburgh Steeler fan Michele Ship of New Jersey agrees that the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the games is “definitely placating.”

“I think it’s a good thing because it would show respect,” Ship said. “However, it’s definitely placating because what’s next? That’s a temporary gesture. Now, will the players not kneel before the first game and then kneel the rest of the games?And more importantly, is their decision to kneel going to be accepted from that point on?”

NFL fan David A. Brown noted: “We sing the Black national anthem at Black church events, HBCU graduations and events and when we are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Day,” said Brown. “It means something to us. Playing it at an NFL game would be a joke. If they want to fix something, hire 12 more Black head coaches and 30 other coaches and coordinators.

“Hire 10 Black general managers. That’s just a start.”

Coates agrees with Brown.

“This is a moment for them to look at real ways to help,” Coates said. He teaches an honors course at Miami of Ohio called Critical Ways to Ethnic Studies (formerly Introduction Into Black World Studies) that each football player at the school is required to take—and pass—to remain eligible to play.

“I tell each of the players that there is a 1 percent chance for them to make it to the NFL, and that a career in this, a high contact sport, lasts only three to four years on average,” Coates added. “They hate me for giving it to them straight and requiring they make at least a B to play football. But when I see them later, they thank me for getting them ready for the world.”

“It’s something like that the NFL should invest in,” he said. “Prepare these men for the real world. Thirty or 40 years ago, there was no distinction. They were just students. Then when Black men started playing, they became ‘athletes.’ The focus changed. The NFL should prepare players for after their careers. Do something about head injuries.

“Put money into communities these players come from that will not just lead them to the field, but to become lawyers, doctors, professionals. Do something tangible that will impact their lives. I’m tired, we’re all tired of symbolic gestures.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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