The announcement that legendary soul singer Gladys Knight will perform the National Anthem at the 2019 Super Bowl was unsurprisingly met with criticism. Knight is now defending her decision in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said. “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.”
The longtime civil rights activist is referring to the “take a knee” protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the performance of the National Anthem. Kaepernick’s protesting has gotten him blacklisted from the NFL and he has not played professionally since 2016. Still, Knight believes that singing the anthem on football’s biggest night in front of an audience on par with the 103.4 million people who tuned in last year, according to CBS, will give it “back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it.”
Knight also made clear to critics that she has been fighting “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” by “walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.” She concluded her statement by saying: “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.”
Still, regardless of Knight’s insistence that we keep the issues separate, Kaepernick being shut out has cast a dark cloud over the Super Bowl and her performance isn’t the only one under fire. After news that Maroon 5 would headline at halftime first spread, the band struggled to find artists who would perform with them. Rihanna and Cardi B are among those rumored to have turned the gig down. Recently, though, Travis Scott and former Outkast member Big Boi were confirmed as performers with Maroon 5.
Similar to Knight, Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton has defended the band’s decision to perform.
“I think there are plenty of people – a lot of the players, to be honest – who support Kap and also do their job for the NFL,” Morton told People. “We can support being against police brutality against black and brown people and be in support of being able to peacefully protest and still do our jobs. We just want to have a good time and entertain people while understanding the important issues that are at hand.