Super Bowl 53: Gladys Knight explains her decision to sing national anthem

Gladys Knight predictably received a mix of praise and criticism for her decision to sing the national anthem at this year's Super Bowl.

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All of the artists who have agreed to participate in anything related to the Feb. 3 game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium have endured the same response - some fans delight in their inclusion and others classify their involvement as selling out to the NFL. Critics believe that anyone performing at a Super Bowl-related event is endorsing their treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t played since 2016 after his peaceful protest of “taking a knee” during the anthem.

Credit: Kevin Winter

Credit: Kevin Winter

But in a statement to Variety, Atlanta-native Knight, 74, reiterated what many fail to remember about Kaepernick's protest – it was never about the anthem.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice. 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 wrote.

“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 LII.

“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.”

Last weekend, the NFL finally unveiled its full Super Bowl halftime performance lineup – the long-rumored Maroon 5, along with Travis Scott and Atlanta's Big Boi (who, according to his publicist, is not doing press because "he is recording").

Scott and Kaepernick had a conversation before Scott officially agreed to play the Super Bowl, but there have been varying accounts about the outcome of their chat. Kaepernick's girlfriend, Nessa Feddi, has said that despite reports to the contrary, "There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against" Kaepernick.

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