The Black national anthem being played at NFL games continues to be a source of scrutiny as the season gets underway.
Criticism of the song, known as “Lift Every Voice,” once again cropped up on Sept. 9 when Grammy award-winning artist Alicia Keys and the Florida A&M (a historically Black university) choir performed the song during the season opener, the Cowboys-Buccaneers game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
This season marks the second year the league has elected to incorporate the song into game openers, just ahead of the national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.” The league began broadcasting the song in the wake of protests spurred by the police slayings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year.
However, HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher is among the latest critics who have expressed their issues with “Lift Every Voice” continuing to have a presence in the national broadcast. During the Sept. 10 airings of his show, Maher addressed the matter before his studio audience.
“I saw last night on the football game, Alicia Keys sang ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ which now I hear is called the black national anthem,” he said. “Now, maybe we should get rid of our national anthem, but I think we should have one national anthem.”
He went on to explain that the NFL’s attempt at inclusivity was nothing more than yet another way to draw the racial line in the sand.
“I think when you go down a road where you’re having two different national anthems, colleges sometimes now have — many of them have different graduation ceremonies for black and white, separate dorms — this is what I mean! Segregation! You’ve inverted the idea. We’re going back to that under a different name.”
His reaction fueled commentary across social media from people who perceived Maher’s commentary as less than intelligent and dismissive of the history of “Lift Every Voice.”
“The fact that @billmaher has never heard of the ‘Black National Anthem’ until recently, when it was written in 1900 and has been a staple in our community since, shows how much some white ppl, even ones we may consider allies, don’t understand and/or consider our perspective,” wrote one person.
“How about we play one anthem when every race is treated the same. And you can reply to this a million times, but you cannot convince me that people of color are treated the same as whites in this country. I live here,” commented another.
Another person chimed in with, “White Supremacy is causing division but Bill Maher thinks it’s the black national anthem.”
But, Maher is not at all alone in taking issue with the debated song. “The Megyn Kelly Show” host and former Fox New talk show host recently spoke out against the NFL’s inclusion of “Lift Every Voice,” as well as their initiatives to combat racial injustice.
“I don’t think that the average American — Black or white — wants to hear the Black national anthem before they hear the national anthem … and it’s no offense against people of color, we’re one country,” Kelly said Thursday on her show. And like Maher, she against aging but two anthems.
“We don’t need separate anthems,” she said. Instead, Kelly believes people need politics to exit the conversation as it pertains to sports all together. “It’s a chance to come together. Celebrate America and then play a sports game. And not to shove politics or divisive cultural issues down the throats of the viewers who are looking for a getaway.”
But like Maher, her comments were met with criticism. “It’s only *divisive* when it has anything to do with Black folks, right @megynkelly?” tweeted one person.
Another wrote, “@megnykelly Really???? You’re really going there???? Just stop with gaslighting people!!! Go find something constructive to do!!!”