Award-winning songstress and Atlanta native Gladys Knight is defending her upcoming appearance at Super Bowl LIII, releasing a statement in response to Variety on Friday.
Knight's been tabbed as the national anthem singer for the game and faced criticism for participating despite former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protests of racial injustice during the national anthem in 2016. Variety asked Knight to comment on the league's treatment of Kaepernick.
"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice. 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," Knight said Friday.
"I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 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."
Multiple recording artists reportedly declined invitations to participate in the Super Bowl halftime show as a show of support to Kaepernick.
"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it," the 74-year-old Knight said. "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."