Motown legend Gladys Knight, known as the Empress of Soul, is sharing her stance on the NFL’s treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after announcing she will be singing the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII.
Kaepernick garnered national attention and sparked dialogue in 2016 for not standing during the anthem as a way of protesting police brutality and social inequality.
Kaepernick became a free agent in 2017, and has not been signed to another team.
Knight, who is an Atlanta native and civil rights advocate, said in a statement to Variety magazine that “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.”
Knight’s statement 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 added that she prays the national anthem “will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward.”
While the quarterback hasn’t played since 2016, he was featured in an advertisement for the 30th anniversary of Nike’s Just Do It campaign in the midst of filing a collusion grievance against the NFL — contending he has been purposefully denied employment.
“Believe in something. … Even if it means sacrificing everything,” the 2018 Nike ad read.
Read Knight’s full statement on Variety’s website.
Contact Aleanna Siacon at ASiacon@freepress. Follow her on Twitter: @AleannaSiacon. USA Today staff writers Lorenzo Reyes and Nate Davis contributed.