The NFL has come a long way since it clamped down on players taking a knee or staying in the locker room in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and protests against police brutality last season. In fact, not only did the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans players lock arms in a show of unity at the opening of the pandemic-delayed season on Thursday night (Sept. 10) -- though audio of what appeared to be some fans booing the gesture racked up more than 50,000 tweets -- but Alicia Keys appeared in a moving video before kick-off that paid tribute to the song referred to as the Black national anthem.
The clip was narrated by Captain America co-star Anthony Mackie, who described the grim reality of Black Americans living a separate, but unequal existence at the dawn of the 20th century. "Pained by inequality, but inspired by resilience, writer and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson put pen to paper," Mackie explained. "His words would become a unifying call for hope for a brighter tomorrow. A timeless exhortation to 'Lift Every Voice and Sing.'"
The scene then cut to Keys, backed by a physically-distanced youth chorus in masks, performing the inspiring "Lift Every Voice and Sing" on piano midfield amid images of NFL players raising their fists, speaking to children, participating in protests and showing their solidarity with social justice movements across the nation. Meanwhile, the camera panned to figures behind Keys wearing masks and shirts honoring victims of racial and police violence, including Breonna Taylor and Emmett Till.