What a difference four years and many, many peaceful protests make. On Thursday evening, the NFL announced that it will either play or have someone perform the national Black anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing.’ Per ESPN, the (gorgeous and powerful) song would be sung prior to a performance of the (boring and overdone) American national anthem before every Week 1 NFL game this coming season. Apparently, the league is considering other ways to “recognize victims of police brutality” including listing the names of victims on uniforms through decals on helmets or patches on jerseys as well as producing educational material and programs about victims. If this sounds odd coming from a league that stifled and punished former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for peacefully protesting victims of police brutality and systemic oppression in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem, that’s because it is.
Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the league had “erred” in response to Kaepernick’s protest and the league announced vague plans to “increase its social justice footprint” by donating $250 million over a 10 year period. For context, the NFL made approximately $16 billion in 2019 alone, but, just like singing the Black National anthem before 1 week of a 16-week-season, it’s a nice and somewhat empty gesture. It is yet to be known whether or not this gesture from the NFL will be included in the Netflix series Kaepernick is making with Ava DuVernay, Colin in Black & White. While there are plenty of reasons to boycott the NFL, if the NFL uses its Jay Z/Roc Nation ties to get Blue Ivy to sing her gorgeous rendition of “Lift Every Voice” we may have to tune in.