The NFL plans to play "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" before the first games of the 2020 season, ESPN reported.
The Black national anthem will be played before the "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the first game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans as well as every other game in the first week of the season. The league also plans to honor victims of police brutality via helmets and jerseys.
Needless to say, the internet was less than excited about the anthem announcement and couldn't help but to point out the evident pandering.
The NFL is hilarious. League won’t hire black head coaches he’ll they won’t even hire black offensive coordinators but will announce that they’ll play “Lift every Voice” before games and think they’re making progress.
— Griselda Records A&R (@el_budget) July 3, 2020
First, I’m disappointed but not surprised by how many white people have never heard of the Black national anthem.
Second, I don’t think this is necessary. Black people are calling for substantive change, not symbolic gestures of support. https://t.co/ArU3IGw4ta
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) July 3, 2020
Hundreds of NFL fans said the anthem was the least of the league's problems when it comes to how it deals with Black issues.
Black Folks: NFL, your league is 70% Black but less than 10% of your head coaches are. Also you're the only 1 of the big 3 leagues w/o guaranteed contracts. & Kaepernick is better than many white QBs you employ. &…
NFL: Shh. My favorite song is playing. https://t.co/KseevkSAYL
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) July 3, 2020
Others joked that many white fans were either angry about the decision or didn't even know "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" even existed.
— Daniel D.Royul Cody (@DRoyulMOG) July 3, 2020
“If we could, we would make singing the Black National Anthem mandatory at every sport event”- NFL pic.twitter.com/UO813DwUBu
— Euphoria/Insecure STANS???? (@demsforthewin) July 2, 2020
As Blavity previously reported, fans and players were appalled earlier this year when multiple coaches of color were fired, leaving the league with only three Black head coaches.
Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Anthony Lynn with the Chargers and Brian Flores with the Dolphins are the only Black coaches left despite the league's player pool being populated almost entirely by Black men.
Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, released a report in November highlighting the dire state of diversity in the league's coaching and executive ranks. The report notes that there are just two Black offensive coordinators, 10 defensive coordinators and even fewer Black executives. These paltry numbers were calculated before the firing wave that came after the season ended in February.
Rod Graves, who runs the league's Fritz Pollard Alliance diversity initiative, has spent decades in the NFL as a player and executive but had harsh words for the progress being made on diversity in an interview with The New York Times in January.
“We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NFL, yet we have only three head coaches of color. For all the hoopla that football has become in this country, that kind of progress, or lack of, is shameful,” Graves said.
Most notably, the NFL has blackballed former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49er drew scorn from league owners, white fans and even President Donald Trump for his decision to kneel during the national anthem.
After kneeling to protest police brutality and racism, Kaepernick was barred from playing again in the league, and he eventually filed a grievance against the NFL for blackballing him. He ended up settling out of court, but Kaepernick's absence from the league has been a sore spot for Black fans of the sport.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a video in June admitting that the league erred in how it responded to efforts by players to protest. But even that video was criticized because Goodell tacitly references Kaepernick's protest but never actually says his name.
"We the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said in the video.
"Without Black players, there would be no National Football League. The protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence inequality and oppression of Black players, coaches, fans and staff," he added. "We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family."