Legendary soul singer, Atlanta native and longtime Civil Rights advocate Gladys Knight, who announced Thursday that she will be singing the National Anthem before the Super Bowl in her hometown on Feb. 3, has issued a statement in response Variety’s question about her stance on the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has essentially been banished from professional football for “taking a knee” during the performance of the National Anthem as a sign of protest. He has not played professionally since 2016.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” she wrote. “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.
“I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of 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.
“No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it. 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.”
Late Tuesday Variety broke the news that Kaepernick and rapper Travis Scott, who will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime during the Super Bowl, spoke and shared their views before Scott officially announced his performance. Sources close to both men told Variety that the conversation was cordial and respectful, although the two did not necessarily agree.
The Super Bowl halftime performance has been fraught with controversy since word of Maroon 5’s performance first leaked to the media in September. Their performance was not confirmed until this past Sunday, sources say, because Maroon 5 struggled to find artists of color to perform with them and appearing at the Super Bowl amounts to an endorsement of the NFL’s policies and its treatment toward Kaepernick in particular. Finally, three weeks after word of Scott’s performance was first reported, he and former Outkast member (and Atlanta native) Big Boi were confirmed as halftime performers with Maroon 5.