NFL to play Black national anthem before week 1 games: report

The NFL will play 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' during Week 1 of the upcoming season in an effort to recognize the victims of police brutality.

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In an effort to highlight the victims of police brutality, the NFL will play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — considered the Black National Anthem — before each game in Week 1 of the upcoming season. 

An insider spilled to The Undefeated on Thursday that the song will be performed live or played before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” ESPN reports.   

Award-winning journalist Jemele Hill reacted to the news on Twitter, writing “I can’t wait until the NFL figures out nobody black knows the second verse of Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

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An earlier report published on theGRIO noted that many of us are able to hum at least the first stanza from memory, but not many know the background of the “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (or “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”). 

The song started as a poem. It was first recited in the year 1900 by 500 schoolchildren at the all black Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida, as a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

James Weldon Johnson, a civil rights activist, lawyer, and principal of the Stanton School, wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to introduce famed educator Booker T. Washington, who was visiting the school at the time.  Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson put the poem to music and it officially became a song.

In 1919, the NAACP adopted the song as its official “Negro national anthem” and it enjoyed widespread distribution and celebration. The song experienced a resurgence during the civil rights movement. 

In addition to the song being played before every game in Week 1 of the NFL season,  the Players Association is working with the league to allow the names of victims of police brutality on the back of player’s jerseys instead of their last name. 

“People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando,” Thunder point guard Chris Paul told ESPN’s Marc Spears. “With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.” 

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Paul said players who want to participate can promote other causes and charities not related to social injustice. 

“The guys I talked to were definitely excited,” Paul told Spears. “The reason I’m passionate and excited about it is that it gives a voice to the voiceless.” 

According to the report, the back of the jersey could feature the name of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.” 

The NFL’s season opener kicks off Sept. 10, with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

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