The National Football League has announced that it will play the Black national anthem before "tentpole games" during the 2021-2022 NFL season. "Tentpole games" are characterized as the NFL Draft, playoff games and the season opener on September 9. In addition, the league will look to promote its social justice initiatives through signage, PSAs and more. Specifically, this year's theme is “It Takes All Of Us.” As a result, end zones will feature messages like “End Racism” and “Inspire Change.”
The NFL's recent announcement is part of its larger "Inspire Change" initiative. Created in response to the anti-police brutality protest movement, the NFL campaign has committed $250 million over the span of 10 years to fighting social injustice across the country.
"Through Inspire Change, the NFL supports player-led efforts to engage with team owners, public officials, law enforcement, academic institutions, community partners and others to identify meaningful ways to strengthen local communities and the greater society," a statement from the NFL reads.
"Working with the Players Coalition, an independent 501(c)(3) entity, NFL teams and the league continue to support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity."
More recently, the "Inspire Change" initiative has expanded to address the recent string of killings at hands of police. During the season opener, the Texans and Chiefs attempted to lock arms a sign of unity during the national anthem, but fans booed them. Later on, the league began putting signage on the field and enlisted Alicia Keys to sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at Super Bowl LV.
"We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter. Without Black players there would be no National Football League," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a video message.
The 2021-2022 NFL Regular Season is set to kick off in Tampa, Florida on September 9.