Gladys Knight recently sat down with ET’s Kevin Frazier and marveled at how it was an “honor” that those in charge “would even think of me to do something this important.”
The 74-year-old singer said that the whole experience meant even more with the big game being held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Atlanta is my home. My background. My family that lifted me up,” Knight shared. “This city is amazing.”
While Knight is clearly excited to be singing at the massive event, her decision to perform was met with a bit of controversy from fans who oppose the NFL’s divisive public stance on Colin Kaepernick, and other players, who take a knee during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
However, for Knight, her choice to perform the national anthem isn’t a reflection of her opinion on the NFL’s political stances but rather a tribute to what she feels the anthem itself stands for.
“This is my country. This is my state, my city and I love my country. It’s really as simple as that,” the “Midnight Train to Georgia” songstress told ET. “I choose all my songs by what they say, or what they would make me [feel]… I think about the people that fought, and marched, and died, and did all those things for our country. I’m proud to just honor them by singing that anthem.”
The iconic diva shared a similar sentiment earlier this month when she released a statement to ET through her rep, addressing the backlash from fans.
“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said at the time. “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.”
“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,” she added in her statement.
Knight’s decision to sing before the big game come amid ongoing controversy sparked by the artists who signed on to play the Halftime Show — Maroon 5, along with Travis Scott and Big Boi.
“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,” he explained. Check out the video below to hear more.
The big game kicks off Sunday, Feb. 3 on CBS.