Iconic soul singer Gladys Knight spoke out on Friday in support of the National Anthem, which she will perform at the Super Bowl on February 3, lamenting the fact that the song has been intertwined with negative reactions to Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality. When asked by Variety if she approved of the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick, who was all but banished from professional football after kneeling during the national anthem, Knight responded in a statement that “I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice. 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 added that “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.”
Her statement comes at a time of controversy for Super Bowl performers, Variety notes: In recent months, headliner Maroon 5 reportedly had difficulty finding artists of color who were willing to perform with them, as many feared that performing would be tantamount to endorsing the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick. Eventually, however, Travis Scott and former Outkast member Big Boi joined the roster.