The NFL plans to play or perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as well as “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the 16 games on its schedule for Week 1 of the regular season in September, ESPN and The Associated Press reported on Thursday.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been called the “Black national anthem.” It’s based on a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900.
The first verse of the poem reads: “Lift ev’ry voice and sing, ‘Til earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise high as the list’ning 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 ‘til victory is won.” (video below)
If the NFL carries out the Week 1 plan, it could be seen as another outreach of the league’s recent public display of increased awareness on racism since the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis policemen in May.
On June 5, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had been wrong in the past in how it approached peaceful protests of police brutality by its players, particularly on kneeling during the national anthem in the 2017 season.
In a video message, Goodell said: “We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe ‘Black Lives Matter.’”
The NFL also announced last month that it would commit $250 million over the next 10 years to social-justice initiatives targeting “systemic racism” and supporting “the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans.”