The 74-year-old singer took the stage in Atlanta, Georgia, and performed the national anthem following a stunning rendition of “America the Beautiful” by Chloe x Halle. Both performances came prior to the highly anticipated game between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots and were accompanied in sign language by deaf activist Aarron Loggins.
Knight wore a bedazzled white dress and sparkly boots as she sang an incredible rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
ET spoke to Knight last week about singing the national anthem this year.
“Atlanta is my home. My background. My family that lifted me up,” Knight said. “This city is amazing.”
“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 added. “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.”
Knight accepted the gig last month and gushed about “coming home” to Atlanta for the performance. In a statement, Knight said, “I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta. The NFL recently announced their new social justice platform Inspire Change, and I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year.”
Following the news of her involvement, Knight defended her decision to perform at the Super Bowl. The defense came after criticism against both Knight and the game’s halftime performers — Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi — for working with the NFL after tension surrounding the league’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.”
Watch the video below for more on the performances at this year’s big game: