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Black National Anthem Should Not Be Controversial

For the very first time in the history of the Super Bowl, where over 56% of the players are Black, they finally played the Black National Anthem. Grammy Award recipient Andra Day delivered a rousing version of the song. The overall response to the song was positive, but there were those who were offended by it.  Fans took to the internet and began their attack. Some elected Republican officials also took the lead. Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, wrote that he “refused to watch the game because they desecrated America’s National Anthem by playing something called the Black National Anthem.”  Representative Mike Laychick, a Republican lawmaker in the Ohio House of Representatives, wrote, “There’s no such thing as a Black National Anthem.”  And, of course, they had to find a young Black conservative pundit to join the chorus of negativity. C. J. Pearson wrote,” We are all Americans. As a young Black man and proud American, let me make myself clear. There is only one national anthem.” Because of his youth, I can dismiss Pearson’s comments. He has no idea what it means to be Black. Maybe after a few years, he will come to understand just how hypocritical it is for white people to cheer Black athletes as they run up and down on a football field. Yet they jeer the playing of a song written by two outstanding Black men at the turn of the 20th Century, which the NAACP designated in 1917 as a symbol of our fight …

For the very first time in the history of the Super Bowl, where over 56% of the players are Black, they finally played the Black National Anthem. Grammy Award recipient Andra Day delivered a rousing version of the song. The overall response to the song was positive, but there were those who were offended by it. 

Fans took to the internet and began their attack. Some elected Republican officials also took the lead. Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, wrote that he “refused to watch the game because they desecrated America’s National Anthem by playing something called the Black National Anthem.” 

Representative Mike Laychick, a Republican lawmaker in the Ohio House of Representatives, wrote, “There’s no such thing as a Black National Anthem.”  And, of course, they had to find a young Black conservative pundit to join the chorus of negativity. C. J. Pearson wrote,” We are all Americans. As a young Black man and proud American, let me make myself clear. There is only one national anthem.”

Because of his youth, I can dismiss Pearson’s comments. He has no idea what it means to be Black. Maybe after a few years, he will come to understand just how hypocritical it is for white people to cheer Black athletes as they run up and down on a football field. Yet they jeer the playing of a song written by two outstanding Black men at the turn of the 20th Century, which the NAACP designated in 1917 as a symbol of our fight for equality. These men who take the field to play a game have come from families that appreciate the words, “Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmony of liberty.” 

Before they became superstars, they existed in a world where these words lifted Black Americans from despair to a level of hope. Many of their family members still exist in that world. Despite their fame and wealth, they know that the battle for equality continues, and hearing the words of the Black National Anthem is their acknowledgment of that struggle.   

Therefore, to white America, to enjoy the excitement of a game that is produced by 56% of Black players, you must make some concessions. Congressman Gaetz did the right thing when he refused to watch the game. But for all the others, like Laychick from Ohio, they cannot have it both ways. If you want to watch some of the most accomplished athletes in the world perform, there is a price to pay.

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