Gladys Knight Shouldn’t Be the Villain of Super Bowl LIII

There are better places to sing, but the NFL is the real enemy.

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Gladys Knight performing at Aretha Franklin’s funeral (Photo: YouTube)

Pardon me while I refuse to get outraged. So Gladys Knight has agreed to perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIII. Naturally, social media went after her … hard. Another week, another star shoved behind the bullseye.

The critical consensus: How dare Knight perform for the same organization, the NFL, that basically ghosted ex-San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand and remaining on bended knee during the National Anthem before games in 2016 and 2017? His actions were a sort of silent protest against America the beautiful’s legacy of racism?

Now, Knight, a 74-year-old icon who probably can school most of her “woke”-generation detractors on being black and oppressed in America, finds herself where Kevin Hart was just weeks ago, and where Megyn Kelly and Roseanne Barr found themselves last year.

Do we “cancel” her, too?

In an environment where celebrities are pilloried for supporting Trump, where they live under a high-power microscope on social media, stars never have had to walk so softly. But if we decide the time has come to cancel Knight, as some have suggested on Twitter, do we cancel Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi for signing on to perform the halftime show?

Do we cancel all the players who continue to toil for the NFL and the female stars who are married to them and date them?

Do we cancel CBS for airing Super Bowl LIII and boycott all of its shows?

Do we expect Lady Gaga to push for the removal from the Internet of all traces of her 2017 halftime performance in protest? She’s already deleted her 2013 R. Kelly duet “Do What U Want” from streaming services, apparently, to appease those demanding his downfall amid sexual assault allegations and possibly, probably, to keep her Oscar chances intact?

I adore Kaepernick, and, like Rihanna, who refused the halftime headlining gig that Maroon 5 accepted, I stand by him. As a student in elementary, middle and high school, I used to bite my cheek every morning when I had to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, for pretty much the same reason that Kaepernick knelt. I bow down to him for taking a stand by not standing.

While I hate how the NFL has treated him in the aftermath of the protest he launched, that’s not why I won’t be watching the Super Bowl or the halftime show.

Personally, I don’t care about football, and I’ve never been interested in the halftime show. But if pop stars didn’t boycott it after the NFL, CBS, and Justin Timberlake threw Janet Jackson under the bus over Nipple-gate at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, I don’t expect them to start now.

Knight responded to the controversy with a statement in which she said she wants “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 think she’s overstating the importance of the National Anthem. “The Star-Spangled Banner” isn’t much of a song. In my opinion, “Midnight Train to Georgia” has far more unifying clout. Deluded lionizing of the National Anthem by blindly patriotic Americans is what led to the NFL’s terrible treatment of Kaepernick for refusing to stand through it.

If I were an NFL player, I’d get on my feet for Gladys Knight on February 3. I wouldn’t do it because I care about the song she’ll be singing, but for all the others that have made her one of our most enduring and indestructible icons.

Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa”

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