The decision to sing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ – often referred to as the ‘black national anthem’ of the USA – before every game during Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season has been criticised by a leading American academic.
Josephine Wright, Professor of Music and Black Studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio, insists the NFL can bring about genuine positive change in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against social inequality.
The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May has led to worldwide protests and demonstrations, with footballers in England among those to ‘take the knee’ ahead of matches, while some NBA games were postponed in protest at the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin by police.
The NFL appears keen to show it too is in tune with the mood of many people who believe it is time for change with regard to societal inequalities faced by many black people, but Professor Wright believes the decision to sing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ ahead of matches is an ill-conceived one.
She told Sky Sports News: “People feel that it’s very empty for the following reasons. The NFL has been very inconsistent in how it deals with diversity, equality and inclusion in its league. Its players are majority black and brown people who come from communities that have experienced social injustice and harassment.
“The management and owners are majority white and many of them are supporters of the present occupant of the White House.
“So there is not a coming-together of minds. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the owners have to listen to the players.
“In terms of the importance of it’s over 100 years old…I don’t think the audiences they are attempting to reach know anything about it.
“I think what they are trying to do is issue some statement of appeasement to their workers, the players.
“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.”
Instead, Professor Wright has urged the NFL to introduce truly meaningful changes to help with social equality.
“If they were really committed to social justice, they would invest in the communities from which their players come,” she added.
“What they forget is that their players do not benefit from white privilege, even though they have money and celebrity.
“Once they leave that field and go out onto the city, they are subjected to the same harassment as other black and brown people, and many in the league have spoken up about it.
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