Super Bowl LIII will kick off in Atlanta, Georgia, this Sunday, so perhaps it is no surprise that one of the city’s biggest stars will be on hand to perform the national anthem ahead of the big game. Before the Los Angeles Rams face off against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Super Bowl LIII, legendary singer and Oglethorpe, Georgia, native Gladys Knight will perform the nation’s song, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The seven-time Grammy Award winner, best known for the hit songs “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with her backup group, The Pips, in 1996. But Knight is considered royalty in Atlanta. In 2015, a stretch of Atlanta’s State Route 9 was renamed Gladys Knight Highway, according to CBS Sports.
In a statement about her coveted Super Bowl cameo, Knight said she is “proud” to represent the NFL and to use her voice “to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta.”
The 74-year-old music legend added that she is “honored” to be part of the inaugural year of the NFL’s new social justice platform, Inspire Change. Gladys Knight will be joined on the field by deaf activist Aaron Loggins, who will sign the national anthem on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf.
After her Super Bowl performance was announced, Gladys Knight issued a statement to address her stance on the NFL’s “treatment of Colin Kaepernick.” In 2016, Kaepernick made headlines for taking a knee during the national anthem as a form of political protest. The free agent filed a grievance against the NFL after he remained unsigned at the start of the 2017 season. Musicians were pressured to boycott the Super Bowl as a result of the Kaepernick controversy.
Gladys Knight expressed regret that the national anthem has been dragged into the controversy.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to 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 suggested the song be a symbol of unity, and she passionately reiterated her right to sing the national anthem despite a call for performers to blacklist the Super Bowl in support of Kaepernick.
“I am here today and on Sunday, February 3rd 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.”
Gladys Knight joins an impressive list of past national anthem Super Bowl singers that includes Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Cher, Barry Manilow, Harry Connick Jr., Mariah Carey, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga.
In addition to Gladys Knight, the musical soundtrack to Super Bowl LIII will feature Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi during the halftime show.
Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast on Sunday, February 3 starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS.