Josephine Wright, professor of Africana studies and music, was recently quoted in an article from Sky Sports News criticizing the National Football League’s (NFL) decision to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the opening games of the 2020 season. According to Wright, playing the song—which is referred to as the “Black national anthem” in the United Stated—is a misguided attempt by the NFL to bring about positive change in light of this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests that continue to take place worldwide.
“The NFL has been very inconsistent in how it deals with diversity, equality and inclusion in its league,” Wright said. “Its players are majority Black and Brown people who come from communities that have experienced social injustice and harassment.”
Wright alluded to the 2016 season when then-quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” before each game. Only recently has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to Kaepernick for the league’s lack of support during this time.
“They have been inconsistent in how they have dealt with the protests of the players, and they have been violating the constitutional rights of the players by telling them to shut up,” she said.
Wright went on to explain that despite the majority of players being people of color, the NFL is still dominated by white owners and coaches.
“What they forget is that their players do not benefit from white privilege, even though they have money and celebrity,” Wright said. “Once they leave that field and go out onto the city, they are subjected to the same harassment as other Black and Brown people.”
Instead of singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Wright offered her own advice about how the NFL could use their status to promote change.
“If they were really committed to social justice, they would invest in the communities from which their players come,” she stated.