The former Motown artist let her fans know that she’ll be singing the national anthem at the game this year, and because folks are angered that Colin Kaepernick has seemingly been ousted by the NFL for kneeling during that same song, some called her a traitor.
The 74-year-old is a native of Atlanta, where this year’s Super Bowl will be played.
“Atlanta, I’m coming home,” tweeted Knight.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer also released a statement and said besides singing the anthem, she’ll be working with the league’s efforts to create positive change in various communities.
“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” she said, “The NFL recently announced their new social justice platform ‘Inspire Change,’ and I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year.”
But people said if Knight was really interested in social change, she would stay away from the Super Bowl altogether, which would show support for Kap. Some even said the league was using her and the other Black performers as tokens and called it a direct slap in the face.
“I am so disappointed. Why would you do that?” someone expressed.
“I love you and want you to shine but Ms. Knight, I expected better from you,” another person tweeted.
And there were some who didn’t seem angry or disappointed about the singer’s announcement as much as they were saddened by it.
“I have listened to you all my life and look at you as a heroine and a role model in your community,” one of her fans wrote. “Please turn this down for the sake of your children and all the Black children who are constantly being discriminated against. Just know we won’t be standing when you’re singing.”
Other people used harsher language to display their disgust.
“You’re too old not to know better,” one person wrote. “Why would you perform at the NFL? I’m disappointed in you period.”
But there were others who didn’t feel Knight was doing anything wrong by performing at the game, and they expressed happiness that one of their favorite singers got the job. Besides Knight and Big Boi, Travis Scott is also performing at the game, as is Maroon 5.
Knight didn’t immediately respond to the backlash, but she issued a statement to USA Today, published on Friday, Jan 18. And the way she sees it, the fight for social justice is separate from the national anthem.
“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 stated.
“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,” the statement concluded.