Lift every voice and sing NFL: What is the ‘Black National anthem’ being played at NFL games?

Adwaid Nambiar
|Published September 11, 2020

While the NFL has had a controversial history in dealing with social justice issues, it has made a move to introduce the Black National Anthem in Week 1 before kickoff.

The Black National anthem also known  as the ‘lift every voice and sing’ song will be played across all NFL games during Game 1. Alicia Keys has performed it and the same video will be played across all 1st week games.

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What is the history with the NFL and BLM?

In August 14th 2016, in a season matchup with the Houston Texans, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel when the national anthem started to play. At this time, he was the backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. This bold move caused a lot of controversy not only in football, but also across the nation.

On one hand, many supporters believed that this is a sign of free speech. On the other, critics have deemed this move disrespectful and blatantly un-American. One critic states that “kneeling for the anthem is seen by most of us as an extremely offensive attack on the country”.

So, how did the NFL deal with this political divide? In 2018, Roger Goodell put out a policy statement that “all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem”. The players union has stated that they will fight the new policy.

As a result of this, Kaepernick has not played a down of football since January 2017.

How did NFL fans react to the Black National anthem?

In 2020, there are several ongoing protests about the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as well as the shooting of Jacob Blake. The NFL has decided to join the movement this season by introducing the Black National Anthem.

Goodell has stated that the NFL was “wrong” and that they “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest”. An unnamed league source has stated this move was “key to educating fans, and becoming a prominent voice in the fight to end racism”, as per ESPN.

The Black National Anthem will be played before every game during Week 1 of the 2020 season. While some people have applauded this move as a big step towards the eradication of racial discrimination, others have thought of this to be an overreaction from the league.

What is the Black National Anthem?

The Black National Anthem is the song “Lift Every Voice And Sing”. The song was originally a poem for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was written by James Weldon Johnson. Many embraced the song as a part of black culture and hope for black people in the US.

The lyrics are shown down below.

Black National Anthem Lyrics

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

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