The National Football League season kicked off Thursday — to the sound of boos.
Some fans weren’t happy when a local choir performed a song considered by some to be the “black national anthem” before the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Detroit Lions in the league’s season opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
The choir’s performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” took place before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung.
The Kansas City Boys and Girls Choir performed the rendition of the song, according to KCTV-TV.
Boos were audible after the performance.
— Glockoma 🇺🇸🇮🇪🇩🇪 (@NoShecklesForU) September 8, 2023
Some supporters of the song noticed the negative reaction, accusing the fans who expressed displeasure of racism.
Kansas City chiefs got done racist ass fans. They booed the Black National Anthem smh…👎🏾
— ♥️SIERRA G.♍️ (@CiciAriel_) September 7, 2023
It’s unclear if the fans booing the performance were doing so because they saw it as a replacement to “The Star-Spangled Banner” or if they objected to the race-centric use of the song.
Christian artist Natalie Grant sang the national anthem afterward.
— ✨Regina Jackson✨ (@reginavjackson) September 8, 2023
The NFL began arranging for performances of “Lift Every Voice” in the 2020 season after a summer of racial protests and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president for football operations, wrote about the decision at the time on NFL.com.
“James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’ in the late 1800s,” Vincent said. “It was put to music in 1905 by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and adopted by the NAACP as its official song in 1919.
“As a child attending Jefferson Elementary School in the Trenton, NJ, public school system, the song was part of our morning ritual. We sang along with it right before placing our hands over our hearts and pledging allegiance to the American flag.
“Many schools continue this tradition today. This Christian hymn about the struggle for freedom and equality inspires hope. It has encouraged generations of Black people that God will lead us to the promises of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It’s as pertinent in today’s environment as it was when it was written.”
He concluded by saying, “Please reflect on the inspirational meaning of ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing,’ its rich history and how it might help to bring unity to a nation in need of healing.”
In the game that followed, the Chiefs — defending Super Bowl champions — suffered a 21-20 upset loss to the Lions, a team that barely missed the playoffs last year.