“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight wrote in a statement to Variety on Thursday after making the initial announcement. “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.
“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.
“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. 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.”
Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers, was the first player to kneel during the National Anthem in peaceful protest of police brutality and social injustice, and he claims that he has been banished from the NFL for his actions. He has not played professionally since 2016.
Knight, 74, announced the news on Thursday that she'd be kicking things off on Super Bowl Sunday with the National Anthem, saying she was "proud" to represent her hometown of Atlanta at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium come February.
"I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta," she said, according to CBS Sports. "The NFL recently announced their new social justice platform Inspire Change, and I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year."
Controversy has surrounded the musical acts performing at the Super Bowl, with some people, including big name celebrities, calling for halftime show headliner Maroon 5 as well as supporting acts Travis Scott and Big Boi to step down from the gig in support of Kaepernick.
Variety reports that Scott and Keapernick spoke and shared their views about the situation with each other before Scott officially announced his performance. Sources close to both men said that the conversation was cordial and respectful, although the two did not necessarily agree.
In a statement, Scott told fans that he agreed to perform at the iconic event on condition that the NFL would donate $500,000 to a charity of his choice.
“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in. I know being an artist that it's in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation," Scott said in a statement. "I am proud to support Dream Corps. and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change."
Super Bowl LIII will air live on CBS from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, Feb. 3.