Just days after the Super Bowl LIII halftime show performers were confirmed, it was announced on Thursday that Gladys Knight will serve as the national anthem singer before the big game. The NFL released a statement with the news, and Knight confirmed the performance on her own social media accounts, Entertainment Tonight reported.
The 74-year-old Empress of Soul shared the news on Twitter with a photo of herself. The NFL-issued photo stated that Knight will be this year’s singer on February 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Atlanta, I’m coming home! #NFL #SBLIII,” she wrote in the tweet.
Indeed, Atlanta is home for Knight, as she was born and raised in the thriving capital of R&B music.
“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta. The NFL recently announced their new social justice platform Inspire Change, and I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year,” Knight said in a statement.
The NFL launched their Inspire Change initiative last week to focus on education and economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform. Inspire Change will “showcase the collaborative efforts of players, owners and the league to create positive change in communities across the country,” the NFL’s official statement read.
In addition to the photo, the NFL also released a video featuring Knight. The video showed Knight’s rise to fame and the singer explained her hopes for the upcoming performance.
“I hope that this national anthem will touch people in a different way,” Knight said in the clip, according to E! News. “We’ve been singing it forever. But this time, I would hope that they would feel it so deeply that it would lift them to a higher place. That’s what I feel when I sing this song.”
As with Maroon 5’s scheduled Super Bowl LIII performance with Travis Scott and Big Boi, Knight’s announcement has stirred up some controversy. While some fans feel that Knight is an excellent fit for the role given her history with the city, others believe she should protest in light of the NFL’s decision to penalize players for taking a knee during the anthem.
Scott is still under fire for agreeing to perform in the halftime show. Several people have signed a petition asking Maroon 5, Scott, and Big Boi to take a knee during their sets
Knight follows a performance from Pink last year, who sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.