Twenty minutes before the 2021 NFL regular season officially kicked off, NBC aired a performance of Lift Every Voice and Sing, featuring Alicia Keys and the Florida A&M University Concert Choir.
Known as the Black national anthem, the performance was televised in addition to The Star-Spangled Banner, which was performed by Michelle Williams closer to kickoff. Players and coaches on both teams stood for the ballad, many of them with their arms interlocked.
“Tonight, the NFL as it did last year will present Lift Every Voice and Sing, also known as the Black national anthem,” NBC announcer Mike Tirico said during the broadcast. “And it will happen at several league events during the year – the NFL continuing the attention around social justice causes.”
Earlier this summer, the NFL announced they would continue social justice messaging during the 2021 season, with performances of Lift Every Voice and Sing being part of those plans. The inclusion of the ballad has been a point of contention for some fans and commentators, despite the song being performed at events last season without much pushback.
NFL TV partners only air the national anthem during select events and the same will be true for Lift Every Voice and Sing. Meaning TV audiences are unlikely to see either national anthem performed for most of the 18 regular weeks of the NFL season.
*story by MEDIAite