Gladys Knight kicked off Super Bowl LIII on Sunday with a rousing performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Wearing an all-white outfit, the eight-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer belted out the national anthem for the sold-out crowd despite the persistent criticism of performers who participated at this year’s event.
Knight spoke ahead of the game about accepting the Super Bowl gig in the midst of the controversy surrounding quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and racial injustice. He hasn’t been signed to a team since. In a statement to EW, Knight said that she hoped her singing “The Star Spangled Banner” would be a way to help unite viewers.
Kaepernick also looms large in the minds of this Super Bowl’s halftime performers. The show will be performed by Maroon 5, along with rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi (the latter an Atlanta native like Knight). In response to the controversy surrounding the performance, Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine told Entertainment Tonight, “No one thought about [playing the halftime show] more than I did,” he says. “No one put more thought and love into this than I did…. I spoke to many people, most importantly though, I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, and made my decision about how I felt.”