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NFL to play Black national anthem as league continues to struggle with race

Colin Kaepernick (Photo by A.R. Shaw for Steed Media)

The NFL announced on Thursday, July 2, that it will play the Black national anthem before every game during the first week of the 2020 season. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” will be performed before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” according to ESPN’s The Undefeated.

Both anthems will be televised nationally on “Sunday Night Football” and “Monday Night Football.”

Written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first a poem and later adopted by the NAACP as its official song. Its inclusion comes at a time when the NFL is attempting to do damage control after its overt blackballing of Colin Kaepernick.

In 2016, while playing with the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick, who was a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, became a free agent in 2017 and was not signed by any NFL team while in his prime.

But with increasing pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement, the NFL has tried to right its wrongs by announcing funding for social justice programs while having dialogues with Black NFL players about how to assist communities in need.

However, even with money allocated for community initiatives, the NFL continues to struggle with racial issues. Kaepernick remains unemployed as quarterbacks with less-impressive credentials on the field are currently under contract with a team.

Furthermore, out of 32 teams, there are no Black owners in a league where 70 percent of players are Black. And there are currently only three Black coaches in the NFL: Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins, and Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers.

So while the NFL may attempt to pacify its Black fans and players with the singing of the Black national anthem, the league has a long way to go when it comes to true racial equality.