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NFL planning to play song long known as Black national anthem before games at start of season: report

The NFL is planning to have "Lift Ev'ry Voice And Sing," long referred to as the Black national anthem, played or performed before games during the first week of this year's season, ESPN reported Thursday.

Citing a source familiar with the plans, the sports network reported that the song will be played before "The Star-Spangled Banner," and that the league is considering putting the names of victims of police brutality on player uniforms.

The efforts come as the league continues to field criticism for its response to kneeling protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 season.

Kaepernick was the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police treatment of people of color. Though he was joined by a number of other athletes in kneeling during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" as part of the protests, he was often criticized by President Trump and other conservatives as the face of a movement they claimed to be unpatriotic.

Kaepernick, who became a free agent at the end of that season, hasn't been signed to a team since. The former quarterback, who was once one of the highest paid in the NFL, took legal action in 2017 against the league, accusing team owners of colluding to keep him from having a job.

The following year, he reached an agreement with the league to settle the grievance.

That same year, the league also announced a policy, which was later halted following immediate backlash, that required team and league personnel to "stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem" when on the field and said clubs would be "fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem."

Amid blowback over its recent history, which was widely scrutinized as widespread protests against racism broke out worldwide following the police killing of George Floyd in May, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized and said the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."

"We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter. ... Without Black players there would be no National Football League, and the protests across the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of Black players, coaches, fans and staff," Goodell said last month in a video, in which he did not mention Kaepernick by name. 

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