AceShowbiz - Sheryl Lee Ralph kicked off the 2023 Super Bowl with her rendition of black national anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing". The "Abbott Elementary" star stunned the State Farm Stadium crowd with her commanding performance ahead of the game.
On Sunday, February 12, the 66-year-old star took the center field, following the announcement of the Walter Peyton Man of the Year award. She looked elegant in a stunning red and black gown.
During the moving performance, Sheryl was joined by a choir. Deaf performer Justina Miles signed the song in ASL during her performance. The performance made history, as it's the first time the song has been performed inside the stadium.
Ahead of the performance, Sheryl took to Twitter to celebrate her moment. "123 years ago today Lift Every Voice and Sing was performed publicly for the 1st time. Today I will sing it for the 1st time as part of the @SuperBowl pre game show in the stadium," she wrote.
Earlier this month, Sheryl told Entertainment Tonight about her performance, saying the offer was an "immediate yes" for her. "I've been saying through the whole awards season, 'It's about the nomination,' and for me this is a nomination," the Emmy winner said.
"So to be there with those great singers, artists, performers, I'm going to accept what it says about me 'cause they would not have chosen me if they did not feel I could not deliver. And I'm ready to deliver!" so Sheryl added.
While Sheryl definitely stunned the crowd, some social media critics blasted the NFL for including the song, which became an unofficial "black national anthem" when it was adopted by the NAACP in 1917, for the third time in a row at the Super Bowl. Among those who criticized the decision was Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who tweeted, "America only has ONE NATIONAL ANTHEM."
Others argued that its performance is a positive gesture that addresses the suffering of black Americans making it a step towards healing racial division. "If you have a problem with the Black National Anthem then you are one of the reasons it's being sung," social media personality Brian Krassentein posted on Twitter.
The Super Bowl LVII airs 12 on FOX. Rounding out the pregame show, Chris Stapleton is set to perform the national anthem and Babyface will sing "America the Beautiful". At halftime, Rihanna will take the stage for her much-anticipated performance and the inaugural Apple Music halftime show.