Following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and at the height of racial protests across the nation in 2020, the National Football League began playing “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing”—better known as the Black national anthem—before its games. Now, what started out as a trend will become a permanent part of NFL games. This past Thursday (Sept. 9) ahead of the season opener, Alicia Keys and the Florida A&M choir performed the James Weldon Johnson classic.
Before the start of the NFL draft this past April, the song was also performed. The league is continuing to include the song’s performance in its pregame ceremonies to advance its social justice initiatives. “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing” is set to be performed ahead of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and both performances will be telecast.
Another initiative includes allowing players to wear helmet decals (like the one pictured above) with one of six approved messages: “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,” “It Takes All of Us,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Inspire Change,” and “Say Their Stories.” Initially, individual name decals were allowed until a man who fired a gun at police was named.
— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2020
The league will also continue to display the phrases, “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism,” on end zones of each team’s field to align with their efforts against racism and police brutality. It’s also being reported that the NFL is launching a program that will spend $250 million over the next 10 years on various social justice efforts. These include criminal justice reform, education and economic advancement, and police-community relations.
As far as kneeling during the anthem is concerned, Front Office Sports reports that “the league and its 32 teams will not hinder the ability of the league’s 1,700 players to take a knee or otherwise protest on field during the U.S. national anthem.”
Watch Alicia Keys’ performance of “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing” below: