NFL Fans React To The National Anthem Controversy

NFL Fans React To The National Anthem Controversy

The National Football League (NFL) has been at the centre of a heated debate surrounding the playing of the national anthem before games. This controversy has sparked passionate reactions from fans across the country. Let us delve deep into the history, context, and various viewpoints surrounding this contentious issue.

The Anthem Protests: A Brief Overview

The anthem protests gained prominence during the 2016 NFL season when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

His peaceful showed a nationwide conversation about the role of athletes in advocating for social change.

The NFL’s Response

The league’s initial reaction was mixed. While some players and teams supported Kaepernick’s right to express his views, others criticized him for disrespecting the flag and the military. The 15 football games that weekend presented the opportunity for fans to gauge how the NFL would respond to player protests.

Many players acted separately, including standing with a raised fist or kneeling. However, some teams also engaged in mass actions together. For example, some teams linked arms as a show of unity.

The Dual Anthem Approach

Fast forward to the 2023 NFL season, and the league introduced a dual anthem approach. Before the kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium, the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was played alongside the traditional national anthem.

While many praised the league for its decision to recognize the Black community, others had reservations. The inclusion of the Black National Anthem sparked severe online controversy, with fans expressing a wide range of emotions.


How did the NFL decide to play both anthems?

The NFL’s decision to play both the traditional national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,”, and the Black National Anthem“Lift Every Voice and Sing,”, was a result of ongoing discussions and evolving perspectives. Here is how it unfolded:

Origins of the Anthem Protests

  • The anthem protests began during the 2016 NFL season when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to raise awareness about racial injustice and police brutality.
  •  These peaceful shows sparked a nationwide conversation about athletes’ role in advocating for social change.

NFL’s Initial Response

Initially, the NFL’s rules required all players to be on the field during the national anthem, but standing was suggested, not mandatory.

The league faced a dilemma: how to balance players’ right to express their views with the desire to maintain unity and respect for the flag.

The New Anthem Policy

  • In 2018, NFL team owners voted to approve a new national anthem policy.
  •  The policy allowed players to remain off the field during the anthem, but those who chose to be on the field were required to stand.
  •  The modification emphasized “respect for the flag and the Anthem” as a key factor.

The Dual Anthem Approach

  • Fast forward to the 2023 NFL season, and the league introduced a dual anthem approach.
  •  Before the kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium, both anthems were played: the traditional national anthem followed by the Black National Anthem.
  •  The inclusion of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” aimed to recognize and honor the Black community.

Owner Statements

NFL team owners expressed their views on the issue:

  • Arthur Blank (Falcons) emphasized that the anthem controversy was about legitimate issues across the U.S., not just players or owners.
  •  Mark Wilf (Vikings co-owner) supported players standing for the anthem, respecting what the flag symbolized.
  •  Jeffrey Lurie (Eagles) praised players for working toward positive change and addressing social injustice.
  •  Jim Irsay (Colts) reaffirmed their commitment to using their platform for social issues.
  •  Shad Khan (Jaguars) emphasized respect for the nation, the flag, and social justice.

Debate and Fan Reactions

The dual anthem approach sparked intense debate among fans, with some appreciating the recognition and others finding it divisive.

Fans’ reactions varied widely, reflecting broader societal conversations about identity, justice, and unity.

Fan Reactions

The NFL’s attempt to be more inclusive by adding the second anthem did not sit well with everyone. Some fans found “Lift Every Voice and Sing” divisive instead of unifying. They questioned its purpose and felt that it detracted from the unity that the national anthem traditionally symbolized. 

Football enthusiasts on social media platforms like Twitter voiced their opinions, both in support and opposition to the dual anthem approach.

The Divide

The anthem controversy has highlighted the deep divisions within the NFL fan base. Supporters argue that players have the right to protest and use their platform to advocate for change peacefully. They view the anthem protests as a powerful expression of free speech and a call for justice.

On the other hand, critics believe that playing the national anthem should remain a unifying moment, devoid of any political or social statements.

Why do some fans find “Lift Every Voice and Sing” divisive instead of unifying?

Lift Every Voice and Sing”, often referred to as the Black National Anthem, holds deep historical and cultural importance within the African American community. However, some NFL fans sense it as divisive for many reasons:

The traditional national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” has been a unifying symbol for the entire nation. It represents patriotism, unity, and shared values. When the Black National Anthem is played alongside it, some fans feel that it shifts the focus away from this unity and introduces a separate context related specifically to Black Americans.

While the intention behind playing both anthems is to recognize and honor the Black community, some fans interpret it as exclusive. They worry that emphasizing one group’s anthem might inadvertently alienate others. In their view, unity should be about celebrating common ground rather than highlighting differences.

The anthem protests initially began as a form of peaceful protest against racial injustice. However, over time, they became intertwined with broader political debates. Some fans associate the Black National Anthem with these political discussions, leading them to view it as a divisive statement rather than a unifying one.

Fans often have strong emotional connections to the traditional national anthem. It’s played at significant moments, like sporting events, ceremonies, and national celebrations. When another anthem is introduced, it can evoke mixed emotions, some positive, some negative, depending on personal perspectives.

Lack of awareness about the historical context of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” can contribute to misunderstandings. It may seem unnecessary or even confrontational for those unfamiliar with its origins and significance.

Change can be unsettling. Some fans resist altering established traditions, fearing that it might dilute the essence of what they hold dear. The dual anthem approach challenges the status quo, and resistance to change often leads to polarization.


As the NFL continues to navigate this complex issue, fans remain divided. The controversy surrounding the national anthem is a reflection of broader societal debates about patriotism, race, and freedom of expression.

Whether the league’s dual anthem approach will bridge or further widen these gaps remains to be seen. One thing is certain: the anthem controversy is far from over, and fans will continue to react passionately to every development.

People May Ask

Why did the NFL play the Black National Anthem?

The NFL played the Black National Anthem before a game, which sparked both praise and criticism. Some fans appreciated the decision, while others had reservations.

What is the controversy surrounding the Black National Anthem?

The inclusion of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (often referred to as the Black National Anthem) at Super Bowl LVII caused severe online controversy. Fans expressed differing opinions on its purpose and impact.

How did fans react to the dual anthem approach?

The NFL’s addition of a second anthem, “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” received mixed reactions. While some saw it as a unifying gesture, others found it divisive and questioned its intent.