Gladys Knight Takes a Stand for the National Anthem

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Gladys Knight earned the nickname “Empress of Soul” for good reason. The hit songs that she and her band mates, the Pips, delivered throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s left a unique gospel-pop imprint on the pages of American music history.

It is for this and so many other reasons that Knight seems to be the perfect voice to lend dignity and beauty to professional football’s great national anthem moment this year.

Super Bowl LIII is set to take place on February 3 in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots will battle to determine which team will ultimately secure the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Look for “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Knight to provide a graceful air of decorum to the pre-game ceremony and give an assist to a National Football League (NFL) in need of an image boost after suffering through the aftermath of some high-profile political posturing.

Knight began singing at the tender age of four. By age seven, she had secured a win for an appearance that she made in 1952 on “Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour.”

The following year Knight’s family formed a musical group, which they dubbed “the Pips,” a name derived from that of a cousin of Knight, James “Pip” Woods. The group would later come to be known as “Gladys Knight and the Pips,” which would be the vehicle that would ultimately propel Knight to superstardom.

Knight has an ecumenical faith background, having been born a Baptist, attended a Catholic grade school, and converted in the late 1990s to the Mormon church, the place in which she would create the Grammy Award-winning “Saints Unified Voices” gospel music choir.

The soul singer’s upcoming performance of the national anthem comes at a time following former member of the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick’s game setting launch of a political protest.

Kaepernick’s protest began in 2016, during the third pre-season 49ers game in which he sat (and in later games knelt), instead of standing up with his teammates and the stadium fans as the national anthem was sung.

Kaepernick’s mode of protest, which continued throughout the season during the pre-game singing of the anthem, was offensive to many and distinctly out of place. It ended up hitting the NFL hard in the pocketbook, as some football players attempted to show their support for Kaepernick by emulating him.

The demonstrations by dissenting players during the anthem infuriated a significant number of football fans. However, liberal Hollywood elites and like-minded media outlets collectively nodded in unison and proceeded to lionize the protesting players.

Sports attire giant Nike added fuel to the football fire by making Kaepernick the poster boy of a signature advertising campaign. Kaepernick remains embroiled in a grievance arbitration filed against the NFL in which he alleges that team owners colluded to keep him out of the league after he lost out to being signed last season.

The whole Kaepernick controversy spilled over into this year’s Super Bowl halftime show preparations. Virtue signaling became all the rage as performers, which included singer Rihanna as well as rappers Cardi B and Jay-Z, declared that they would boycott the halftime show. Jay-Z even placed the following line in one of his tunes: “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.”

Meanwhile, those who are currently slated to perform, including singer and judge on “The Voice” Adam Levine’s musical group Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi, are being slammed by the social media and pressured to withdraw. Scott has even received backlash via Kaepernick’s own Twitter account.

Knight recently issued a timely and sage statement to the public, using a Hollywood trade publication as her outlet.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight wrote as reported by 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.”

Knight’s statement continued, “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.”

In light of the disharmony caused by the behavior and rhetoric on the part of Kaepernick and his allies in Hollywood and the mainstream media, coupled with the inept response by NFL leadership, Knight’s voice is going to be a musical tonic for those who have a passion for football and unabashed love for America.

The Business Toll of Taking a Knee

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A once great institution is literally in the process of destroying itself.

For the longest time the National Football League was the top drawing sport on television. Now it looks as though it is willingly abdicating its ratings throne.

In the season just prior to the current one, 34 of the top 40 televised sports games were NFL football match-ups. Come the fall of 2017, however, the NFL’s popularity took a severe hit and so, too, did the league’s bottom line.

Regarding the current season, TV ratings have declined almost 20 percent, while the television networks have reportedly lost as much as 500 million in advertising dollars.

When compared with the previous year’s numbers, ratings for Week 11 dropped 6.3 percent. And the traditional prime time Thanksgiving NFL game ratings were 10 percent lower than last year.

Millions of football fans have opted to change the channel on the TV set, cancel season tickets, and/or protest in countless other ways over the disrespect of the national anthem that has been shown by many.

The ratings downturn has been accompanied by surprisingly small stadium crowds across the country. In cities populated by die-hard sports fans, the highly unusual sight of empty seats has become commonplace.

In the sports crazed town of Chicago, a recent Bears home game played to a Soldier Field stadium in which over 16 percent of the seats were unoccupied, which meant that more than 10,000 tickets went unused.

The league’s all-important brand, which has been decades in the making, appears to have been severely marred in mere months. The NFL in large part has Colin Kaepernick to thank. The unemployed quarterback kicked off a wave of national anthem protests by football players across the league.

Last season, rather than standing during a performance of the national anthem, Kaepernick knelt down; this was in violation of the written policy of the NFL.

At a time when his career was on the wane and his playing days were coming to an end, Kaepernick managed to make himself more conspicuous than other professional football players by ignoring league policy and, more importantly, insulting the NFL’s primary consumers.

According to the league’s game operations manual, “The national anthem must be played before every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the national anthem. During the national anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking.”

Despite the fact that the manual’s language could not be any clearer, Kaepernick’s act of disrespect to the league and to the country was not only condoned by the media elites, among others, but it was praised.

In one of the most absurd accolades to come along in the history of publishing, as part of its “Men of the Year” edition, with the subtitle “The New American Heroes,” GQ Magazine honored the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback with its “Citizen of the Year” title.

It seems as though young athletes are the ones who have really been led astray by the heaping of praise upon the undignified behavior.

–Four high school football players in Michigan were preparing to take a knee but were benched before they could carry out their plans.

–Two Texas high school players were thrown off their team after protesting during the anthem.

–Child football players in Illinois, on a team made up of boys who were 8-years-old and younger, were joined by their coach in kneeling during the anthem.

–After football players at a New Jersey high school knelt during the anthem, two referees walked from the game in disgust. The referees were subsequently suspended for the remainder of the season while the players escaped reprimand or punishment.

Protests by professional football players have continued to harm the NFL’s bruised image. During Week 12 of the most recent season, which was played over this past weekend, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters failed to come out of the locker room; Philadelphia Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod raised their fists, as did Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung; and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, safety Michael Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas as well as New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon all knelt down while the anthem played.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for allowing the protests to grow and continue. This is the same Goodell who is reportedly demanding a $50 million salary and private jet service for life as part of his new contract. He is currently paid $30 million a year.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who used to be an ardent supporter of Goodell, is now leading an insurgency against the commissioner and has declared that he will sue the NFL if Goodell’s contract extension is finalized without the approval of all team owners.

Former University of Georgia, USFL, and NFL running back Herschel Walker has placed the blame for the NFL protests squarely on Goodell.

“I absolutely think the protests are so upsetting, and I blame the commissioner,” Walker told the New York Post. “I know people are going to be angry when I say it, but he should have stopped the protests at the very beginning.”