Gladys Knight officially kicked off Super Bowl LIII by belting the national anthem at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
The legendary 74-year-old singer, who hails from Atlanta, was accompanied by deaf activist Aarron Loggins, who signed both "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America The Beautiful" (sung by R&B duo Halle X Chloe) on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf.
Social media lit up with reactions from Knight's rendition of the anthem.
"Oh my [Gladys Knight]- amazing performance of the anthem," one fan tweeted.
"Gladys Knight rocked the National Anthem with style and grace," added retired NFL coach Tony Dungey." An awesome way to start the game!"
"Gladys Knight crushed it," agreed another user.
Gladys Knight rocked the National Anthem with style and grace. An awesome way to start the game! pic.twitter.com/aHAkWbsdIw— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) February 3, 2019
The seven-time Grammy Award winner said in January that she was proud to represent the city in front of the millions watching.
"I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta," Knight said when it was announced she would perform, 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."
In an extended statement to Variety, Knight spoke about why she decided to sing the anthem in spite of the controversy surrounding Super Bowl music acts and the kneeling protests inspired by Colin Kaepernick.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” she said. “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.”
While the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are in their respective locker rooms at halftime, Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Atlanta-native Big Boi will take the stage for the Pepsi Halftime Show, which Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine spoke about at length on Thursday.
Levine told Entertainment Tonight that he and the band did not take the decision to play the Super Bowl lightly.
"No one thought about it more than I did," he said in his only interview before the Super Bowl. "No one put more thought and love into this than I did. ... I spoke to many people, most importantly though, I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, and made my decision about how I felt."
He also reassured those who feel that their voices aren't being heard.0comments
"They will be [heard] — that's all I want to say because I don't want to spoil anything," he said. "And once again, I like to think that people know where I stand as a human being after two decades doing this. I'm not a speaker. I'm not a public speaker. I do speak, but it's through the music. My life's work and what I put out into the universe has been positive and hopefully inspiring ... So, what I would say is, you know, we are going to do what we keep on doing, hopefully without becoming politicians and continuing to use the one voice we know how to use properly."
Super Bowl LIII airs on CBS live from Atlanta on Sunday, Feb. 3.