On Thursday, the 74-year-old singer gushed that she was "coming home" to Atlanta, Georgia, for the annual matchup, but, in a statement to ET on Friday, she addressed the controversy surrounding this year's game. The tension around performing at Super Bowl LIII stems from the NFL's stance on Colin Kaepernick and others who take a knee during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest against police brutality.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice," Knight said, through her rep, in a statement to ET. "It is unfortunate that our national anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the national anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone."
"I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life," she continued. "From walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good - I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII."
"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it," Knight concluded. "I pray that this national anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us.”
In addition to Knight, this year's halftime performers, Maroon 5 with Travis Scott and Big Boi, have sparked controversy for their decision to take the stage. While a Variety report claimed that Scott and Kaepernick had reached a point of "mutual respect and understanding" after "at least one phone conversation," Kaepernick's girlfriend, Nessa, tweeted that the report was untrue.
"There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying," Nessa wrote in a tweet, which Kaepernick retweeted.
Prior to Maroon 5 landing the gig, a source told ET that Rihanna was the NFL's first pick, but she turned them down over the protest controversy. Likewise, Pink, who sang the national anthem last year, was also approached about the job, but the negotiations were not fruitful, a second source claimed.
The Super Bowl will feature either the Los Angeles Rams or the New Orleans Saints against either the New England Patriots or the Kansas City Chiefs. The final matchup will be decided Sunday, Jan. 20 in the conference championships. The big game will air Sunday, Feb. 3 on CBS.