For Gladys Knight, the opportunity to perform at this year’s Super Bowl in her hometown of Atlanta is a personal honor. At the same time, she’s very much aware that her appearance is being seen by some as a lack of support for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has more or less been banished from the sport for having previously “taken a knee” during performances of the National Anthem.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Gladys, 74, wrote in a statement to Variety. “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. I am here today and on Sunday, February 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.”


(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The National Football League hasn’t turned a blind eye to the situation, launching a new platform called “Inspire Change,” of which, Gladys says, “I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year.” In explaining just what Inspire Change is, the organization details, “The entire NFL family is committed to conversations and actions that move us towards a more equal and just tomorrow. Inspire Change showcases how NFL players, clubs and the league are joining together to create positive change in communities across America, helping ensure that equal opportunity becomes a reality for all.”

“No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message,” Gladys emphasizes in her statement regarding the Kaepernick situation, “it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it.  I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us.”

The Super Bowl airs February 3 on NBC.