Gladys Knight was criticized following the announcement that she’ll be singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, but the backlash will not make her change her mind.
That’s what the “Midnight Train to Georgia” songstress told Variety in response to the news outlet’s question about her stance on the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during the anthem in protest of injustices against African-Americans and other minorities in the United States and has been out of a job since the 2016 season ended.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight, a seven-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, told Variety. “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.”
She continued, “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.”
She ended by saying, “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.”
Although Knight has many supporters (“You tell em, Gladys Knight” is representative of the backing she’s getting), doubling down on her decision has just fanned the flames. Her quote about giving “the anthem back its voice” in particular is one being discussed on social media, with commenters pointing to the complicated history of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“[Does] she know a man that owned slaves wrote that song?” one person asked, of course referring to Francis Scott Key, whose poem — about an American victory over the British during the War of 1812 — was turned into the anthem.