According to multiple reports, the National Football League is making plans to have the song "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" performed prior to the national anthem at each of its opening day games. The song, often referred to as the "black national anthem," was originally written as a poem before being set to music, just like "The Star-Spangled Banner."
CBS Sunday morning profiled the song, composed by poet James Weldson Johnson in 1900 to honor the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Besides being a song of hope and deliverance, the final stanza of Johnson's lyrics is explicitly religious:
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might, Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee;
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.
After nationwide protests erupted following the police killing of George Floyd, multiple high-profile players posted a video calling on the NFL to be more proactive in addressing the difficulties faced by black citizens in America. League Commissioner Roger Goodell quickly responded with a video of his own, agreeing in principle with the players' demands.
Since that time, the NFL has recognized "Juneteenth" as an official league holiday, pledged a quarter of a billion dollars to combat systemic racism over the next decade, and sought to publicly make amends with players like Colin Kaepernick and others who claim they were silenced when addressing racial issues in the past.
The decision to play "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" alongside the national anthem appears to be the NFL's next step in addressing these concerns. The league is also reportedly considering uniform patches or helmet decals featuring the names of high-profile victims of police brutality.