What a difference a couple of years makes.
In 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a political protest movement by kneeling for the national anthem. As you’re no doubt aware, that turned into a contagion — not just among NFL players, but in other sports as well.
In 2018, ESPN announced before the season it wouldn’t be broadcasting the national anthem before its NFL broadcasts that year. The year beforehand, then-ESPN personality Max Kellerman said that the mere act of playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” was “injecting politics” into sports.
He was hardly alone. In 2020, Sports Illustrated floated the idea of stopping the tradition of playing the national anthem before games period, full stop.
On Thursday night in Kansas City, the league seemed to be singing a different tune — even if a contemporary Christian artist was singing the same old national anthem that existed long before Kaepernick turned it into a symbol of everything the left reviled.
Natalie Grant, best known for singles such as “I Will Not Be Moved” and “Speak the Name,” was the anthem-singer for the traditional Thursday-after-Labor Day season opener featuring last season’s Super Bowl champion playing at home — in this case, the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
And boy, did Thursday’s announcement of the move sound quite a bit different than it might have in seasons past.
Bringing back a familiar face in this week’s game entertainment lineup 😄 pic.twitter.com/JMmBC5AdT9
— GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (@GEHAField) September 7, 2023
“Nine-time Grammy nominee and five-time Gospel Music Association Female Vocalist of the year Natalie Grant will sing the national anthem while the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard will present the colors. The flyover will be conducted by the 110th and 393rd Bomb Squadron’s B-2 Stealth Bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base,” the Chiefs said in a statement Thursday.
A gospel singer, a sheriff’s office honor guard and a military flyover. Somewhere in this cold, hard world, Robin DiAngelo is feeling very white and fragile right now.
And, of course, Grant nailed it:
— ✨Regina Jackson✨ (@reginavjackson) September 8, 2023
And that wasn’t the only praise Grant was getting for her rendition of the anthem:
Natalie Grant 🔥🔥🔥🔥
on the National Anthem for the first NFL game of the season. pic.twitter.com/lLOu2dx85o
— Eric McClanahan (@Ineverglow) September 8, 2023
Natalie Grant did a fantastic job with the Anthem tonight!! pic.twitter.com/YTwZRYQlY6
— Hubert Llewellyn (@Hubert1863) September 8, 2023
— Today’s Christian Entertainment (@TCE4Jesus) September 8, 2023
Christian music legend Natalie Grant with a resounding rendition of the national anthem.
— PJ Green (@PJGreenTV) September 8, 2023
Natalie Grant lets it RIP before the Chiefs home opener! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/K0GNg8XswM
— KCMO TALK RADIO (@kcmotalkradio) September 8, 2023
Now, Grant’s rendition didn’t help the hometown Chiefs, who fell 21-20 to the Detroit Lions, an up-and-coming team many have pegged as the possible surprise breakout squad of the 2023 season.
That said, it might have helped the NFL a whole heck of a lot, no matter how the Chiefs managed to do on the field.
After seven years of anthem-kneeling controversy, the league seems to have learned a lesson from its official beer sponsor, Bud Light: The era of conservative fans taking the slow creep of wokeness into every crevice of American society with a complacent shrug is over.
(In fact, a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — which has been labeled the “black national anthem” — before “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Thursday night was met with some booing.)
Whatever feelings fans have about the league’s anthem-kneeling antics — or its preposterous decision to add the words “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” to the back of its end zones after the tumultuous summer of 2020 — are already baked into how fans feel about the league.
However, the decisions it makes going forward aren’t. Those kinds of stunts aren’t going to fly anymore.
Natalie Grant may have nailed the anthem — but more importantly, the NFL nailed the moment.
Whether it keeps the vibe up is another question entirely, but conservative fans had reason to cheer on Thursday night whether their sympathies were with the Chiefs or the Lions.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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