The National Football League (NFL) plans to play the so-called “black national anthem” before every game during the upcoming 2021 season as part of a larger effort to increase social justice messaging.
According to Front Office Sports on Wednesday, sources close to the planning say the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” will be a significant part of all league events, but will not replace the national anthem. The NFL will also highlight victims of racial injustice with a project called “Say Their Stories.”
Front Office Sports reported that sources said this season’s social justice efforts could be bigger than last year. “They’re bringing back a lot of elements from last year,” said a person familiar with the plans.
The outlet said the overarching theme for the social justice messaging will be “It Takes All Of Us.” Messaging inside stadiums will likely be more focused, however, ending with the theme “Inspire Change” during weeks 17 and 18.
The first rendition of “Life Every Voice and Sing” will be performed prior to kickoff between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Sept. 9.
The additions will build on a 10-year, $250 million commitment to fighting alleged systemic racism as the league continues promoting social justice through on-field signage, images on players’ helmets and in-stadium public service announcements.
In June, the NFL continued pushing social justice messaging, recognizing Pride Month with a new video that declared, “football is gay.”
In the video shared on Twitter, the NFL also says football is “queer,” “transgender,” “American,” and “Accepting.”
“If you love this game, you are welcome here. Football is for all. Football is for everyone,” the organization’s tweet states. “The NFL stands by the LGBTQ+ community today and every day. For more information on how you can help the @TrevorProject, visit http://thetrevorproject.org.”
NFL diversity director Sam Rapoport told Outsports that he was proud of the message, adding that he would be repeating “Football is gay” to himself all season.
“I am proud of the clear message this spot sends to the NFL’s LGBTQ+ fans: This game is unquestionably for you,” Rapoport told the outlet. “I will be playing its first line over and over in my head all season.”
Last season, Pittsburgh Steelers’ left tackle Alejandro Villanueva honored U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe — who died saving his fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq — by wearing Cashe’s name on his football helmet. The move came as many NFL players chose to wear the names of black men who were killed in interactions with police.