Gladys Knight made good on her promise to perform the national anthem at Super Bowl LIII Sunday amid criticism over the choice.
The Empress of Soul spoke to “CNN Tonight” and defended her decision, affirming to host Don Lemon that she was not concerned about how others felt about the upcoming performance.
“People are going to have their opinions about whatever. And all I can deal with … right now is what my heart says. OK? I believe in fairness,” Knight said on the Feb. 1 edition of the show. “I believe in truth. I believe in all of those things, and as far as this is concerned, I grew up with the national anthem. We used to sing it in school before school started. We used to say prayers in school before school started, and we just don’t have that anymore and I’m just hoping that it will be about our country and how we treat each other and being the great country that we are.”
Lemon then asked about the similar controversy surrounding singer Chrisette Michelle, who performed at the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2017. The R&B performer’s career has not been the same since then. She was dropped from her record label and suffered personal traumas like a miscarriage and having suicidal thoughts.
However, with a career spanning six decades, Knight had no qualms about her show.
“Nothing good comes easy. And I would hope that they will understand as I do that we have a better way to do this than to be angry and why is he doing this or why ain’t she doing that,” Knight says. “For me, it’s just — for me — about respect. If we start denying the anthem, there are so many people that have died for our country and there are so many people in my family that are still part of just standing for the country. They are in the services and that kind of thing and just to not say that — if you really listen to the lyrics of the beginning — you’ll understand that. We have fought hard for a long time and not just in wars. I have protested myself.”
Many took issue with Knight singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of the big game, since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick seemingly has been blackballed by the NFL after he spent the 2016 season kneeling during pregame performances of the national anthem in protest of police killings of Black Americans and systemic abuses by the criminal justice system.
But Knight continued to defend herself and even told NBC’s “Today Show” previously that she wrestled with the idea of joining the entertainer boycott against the NFL in support of Kaepernick. Still, citing her history in the civil rights movement, she decided to take on the gig. Singer Tevin Campbell also used that same reasoning in his fierce defense of the icon.