NFL continues to tackle diversity with 2021 Super Bowl performances


Sarah DuJordan | Staff Columnist

Arguably, 2020 was a time like no other. We often focus on the negative aspects of what came out of that year. Although, the discussion around diversity and inclusion being brought to such a spotlight in 2020 influenced many new and positive changes at this year’s Super Bowl. Despite these new changes, we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality, but let’s hope the NFL can keep up the energy (even behind the scenes).

Starting off the night, Alicia Keys serenaded us with her rendition of the “Black National Anthem,” ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ She stood surrounded by a crowd of people, ranging in age, decked out in masks and some wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.

Others wore shirts with the names of the victims of police brutality seen in 2020. The heartfelt emotion put into the performance allowed you to feel all the hurt and love she has for her community. She ended the Black national anthem sitting at a purple piano, surrounded by people joining her on the field.

Representation like this is astronomical. Many people fail to realize there even is a “Black National Anthem.” Unless you watched Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming’ on Netflix, you wouldn’t even know she incorporated it into her 2018 Coachella set.

My parents sat there, confused as to what this performance truly meant. So, here is some background. ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was originally written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, then set it to music in 1899. Of course, this performance was met with conflicting opinions and controversy, but tying this song full of rich history and culture into something as big as the Super bowl was monumental.

Black female artists continued to dominate the stage during the remaining performances. Singer H.E.R. gave a goosebump-raising twist on the classic ‘America the Beautiful’ making the song her own by providing a powerhouse voice and an epic guitar solo.

She did not miss a beat with this rendition. Many deemed this as the best performance of the night, to which I would agree.

Preceding her appearance, we had an unlikely duo join together in the singing of The National Anthem. Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church, who both come from very different musical backgrounds put their own spin on this duet.

Sullivan is an R&B singer, while Church is a country singer. Many mixed reviews came from this pairing, as it started off promising and then their different styles started to compete, not completely meshing together.

Before the highly anticipated halftime show, Amanda Gorman delivered an original poem titled, ‘Chorus of the Captains.’ She recited this poem prior to the coin toss by the three people chosen as honorary captains in the toss. Trimaine Davis, a Los Angeles teacher; Suzie Dorner, a nurse, and James Martin, a veteran representing Pittsburgh.

The final performance of the night wrapped with The Weeknd’s Super Bowl halftime show. A performance completely live and not pre-recorded compared to years prior finished the story he established for months.

People are always very harsh and critical of any halftime show, but I thought The Weeknd gave us quite the show despite COVID-19 safety guidelines. My only complaint about his performance would be technical issues.

Since this was completely live, his mic had some quirks almost making it hard to completely hear him. Regardless, he poured $7 million of his own money into one of the better halftime shows, in my opinion.

The Super Bowl saw a lot of progression in its representation of Black artists and anti-racism efforts. Despite these acts, the NFL has a long way to go with its anti-racism efforts.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a video statement committing to donating $250 million over a 10-year period to combat systemic racism. While acknowledging that this is a positive contribution, we must not forget this is also the same organization that nearly four years ago punished NFL player Colin Kaepernick for his acts of peaceful protest.