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“Lift Every Voice and Sing” (the "black" national anthem) seems to be gaining popularity among certain NFL players, as is evidenced by Sunday's season opener between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
The below video is from when “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is being played.
As can be seen in the video, the Browns have returned to their locker room, while the Ravens have lined up on the goal line. It’s hard to tell from the video, but one or two Ravens have taken a knee during the black national anthem.
The “Star Spangled Banner” was then played.
Once again, we have video of the occasion. It looks by most accounts like a slight majority of the Ravens players took a knee during the anthem, or sat it out.
The Browns players stood together, but a few of them did take a knee.
“A lot of players on this team are really passionate about the community, about our backgrounds and where we come from,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell mentioned in a post-game interview. “I think most of the guys wanted to protest against the injustices in our community. … This is just an opportunity for us to use this platform to try to affect change in the communities.”
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” as a hymn has been around since 1919, when the NAACP first dubbed it the “black national anthem,” and it gained popularity in the 1960s where it was widely sung at rallies, such as those put on by Martin Luther King Jr.
It is still regularly sung in churches all across the USA to this date, however, its use in professional sports has been nonexistent until recently.
Recent controversy dates back to 2016, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem in protest.