A Democratic congressman raised some eyebrows online Sunday when he took a shot at the Super Bowl crowd in Las Vegas, saying very few fans stood for the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” calling it “not a very pretty picture.”
Known colloquially as the “Black National Anthem,” Grammy winner Andra Day performed the song as part of the pre-game festivities for Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.
“Very very few stood for ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. wrote on X. “The Negro National Anthem. Not a pretty picture of Super Bowl crowd.” Cohen represents a majority-Black district in western Tennessee.
Day’s rendition of the song drew cheers at Allegiant Stadium.
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Cohen’s tweet drew attention online, and the Democrat responded to his critics in the moment. One told him he should only stand for one national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but Cohen wrote back, “I stand for both. And in Memphis, most do.”
Another told him the “AMERICAN” national anthem by Francis Scott Key “doesn’t see color. Dems have been the front line in dividing this country with race wars.”
“Well, I honor our national anthem and respect it as representing our country and in our pride in it,” Cohen replied. “However if you look at the history and some of the verbiage, it does relate to slavery and not in a questioning manner.”
Cohen replied to others who made crude remarks about his X post as well.
The decision to perform the song at this year’s Super Bowl stirred debate on social media, although it’s been an annual occurrence at the big game since the 2020 season amid the league’s renewed emphasis on racial justice causes.
Critics have said the nation has only one true national anthem and serves only to divide races further.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., wrote on X about a conversation he had with his wife about why they weren’t going to watch the Super Bowl.
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“They’re desecrating America’s National Anthem by playing something called the ‘Black National Anthem,’” he wrote.
“1619 Project” founder Nikole Hannah-Jones hit back at critics last month by saying the “White national anthem” is already played.
“It was written by a racist enslaver who believed Black people were inferior and fought abolitionists in the courts,” she wrote of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The NAACP first began to promote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the country’s “Black national anthem” in 1917. Written as a plea for liberty by James Weldon Johnson, it was also a civil rights rallying cry in the 1950s and 1960s, according to the organization.
In addition to Day, Reba McEntire sang the country’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Post Malone performed “America the Beautiful” before the Super Bowl. Usher performed the halftime show that included a slew of superstar cameos.
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In only the second overtime game in Super Bowl history, the Chiefs rallied from an early deficit and defeated the 49ers with a walk-off touchdown pass, 25-22. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
‘ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.