The NFL won’t have any live performances of the national anthem before games this season, as it reportedly attempts to limit the number of people with access to the field to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, according to Front Office Sports.
The tradition of having performers sing the national anthem before games has become a source of controversy due to social justice protests. Although the anthem won’t be performed live, there will still be recordings of the song played before the game.
The NFL could also limit the presence of military and police honor guards on the field. Those groups are often a part of the national anthem ceremony at games.
While there may be less ceremony surrounding the national anthem in the NFL in 2020, there will be more in the way of social justice protests and signs of support for anti-racism initiatives. From ESPN’s The Undefeated:
“Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” traditionally known as the Black national anthem, is expected to be performed live or played before every Week 1 NFL game, and the league is considering a variety of other measures during the upcoming season to recognize victims of police brutality, a source familiar with the league’s discussions told The Undefeated on Thursday.
The song would be performed before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the source said. The NFL’s season opener is scheduled for Sept. 10, with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.
Having recently displayed increased awareness about the problems of systemic racism, the NFL, in collaboration with the NFL Players Association, is also considering listing the names of victims on uniforms through decals on helmets or patches on jerseys. The NFL also may produce educational programs about victims, among other plans.
The NFL will also place social justice messages in the end zones during Week 1 instead of the typical team brand imagery, including “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us.”
President Donald Trump has continued his criticism of national anthem protests in the NFL and NBA, telling Outkick’s Clay Travis that he would rather the seasons not be played than for players to protest during the anthem.
“Well, they wanna open and they wanna open badly,” Trump said. “They’ve been working with government. I would say this, if they don’t stand for the national anthem I hope they don’t open. But other than that, I would love to see them open and we’re doing everything possible for them getting them open. I think they can protest in other ways. They shouldn’t protest our flag or our country.”