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NFL will play black national anthem ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ before Week 1 games - The Washington Post

The NFL is talking to players about steps to recognize victims of systemic racism and police brutality. (Keith Srakocic/AP, File)

By Mark Maske

Mark Maske

Sports reporter covering the NFL

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July 2 at 5:51 PM

The NFL is considering allowing players to wear helmet decals or jersey patches this season with the names of victims of systemic racism and police brutality, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

The league, in its latest step amid the national unrest and protests since the death of George Floyd while in police custody on Minneapolis, also plans to have the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” performed live or played before kickoff at each Week 1 game of the 2020 season, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league made no official announcement of its plans.

The song was originally written as a poem and is traditionally known as the black national anthem. It will be played before The Star-Spangled Banner at each opening week game, beginning with the Sept. 10 regular season opener in Kansas City, Mo., between the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and the Houston Texans.

The league has been working with players to identify methods of recognizing victims of racism and police violence, the person familiar with the discussions said. The NFL Players Association also is involved in the deliberations. Other measures being discussed include educational programs and public service announcements about victims and their families.

[What made Roger Goodell say ‘Black Lives Matter’ and where it leaves the NFL]

The NFL has moved to address race-related issues since Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a video that the league was “wrong for not listening … earlier” to players who knelt during the national anthem, and would “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest” going forward. Goodell’s video was released after a group of prominent NFL players, including quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Deshaun Watson of the Texans, released a video about Floyd’s death and urged the league to act.

The league increased its commitment to its social justice initiatives by pledging to contribute $250 million over 10 years to programs that address racial injustice. The NFL also closed its offices June 19 in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Goodell said in a televised interview that he would support and encourage a team to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the players’ protest movement in 2016 while with the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick refused to stand during the anthem to bring attention to racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans, and has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. The Rev. Al Sharpton said at Floyd’s funeral that as long as Kaepernick remains unsigned by an NFL team, the league’s admission that it was wrong for not listening to players is insufficient.

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