Bill Maher Calls Playing of Black National Anthem at NFL Games ‘Segregation’

In Summary

During a rant on his show "Real Time with Bill Maher," the HBO host said playing the Black national anthem before games is a form of "segregation." 

HBO host Bill Maher is calling the playing of the Black national anthem at NFL games “segregation” but “under a different name.”  

According to The Hill, the host made comments about it on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday when discussing the NFL’s decision to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  

During his show after the NFL 2021 Opening Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he said, “Maybe we should get rid of our national anthem, but I think we should have one national anthem.”  

He continued by saying, “I think when you go down a road where you’re having two different national anthems, colleges sometimes now have many of them, have different graduation ceremonies for Black and white, separate dorms… This is what I mean: segregation.”  

Maher’s comments on the song were included in a longer conversation about race in America and discussed liberal politics.  

Playing the Black national anthem at games is one part of the National Football League’s ongoing social justice initiatives. According to Front Office Sports, the league pledged $250 million to combat systemic racism over the next ten years. This includes promoting social justice with on-field signage, decals on player helmets and PSAs that will play in the stadium.   

RELATED: NFL Set to Unveil More Social Justice Initiatives During 2021 Season 

The league will also highlight victims of racial injustice through a project called “Say Their Stories.” This league is being advised by Roc Nation, owned by rapper Jay-Z, for its “Inspire Change” initiative and to get high-profile performers for large-scale NFL events. Players will also be allowed to take a knee or protest on the field during the United States national anthem.  

RELATED: Vanessa Williams Sang the Black National Anthem at Capitol Fourth Event  

Maher’s comments are not the first time “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has received criticism in the public eye. During Fourth of July celebrations, Vanessa Williams sang both the U.S. national anthem and the Black national anthem, sparking backlash from conservatives.  

Criticism of Maher’s comments began circulating online with Black television hosts and journalists, including Whoopi Goldberg and Tiffany Cross speaking out.  

According to the NAACP, “Lift Every Voice” and Sing was written by its former leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900. By the start of the 20th century, the lyrics signified the hopeful plea of Black Americans searching for freedom. It was later adopted officially by the NAACP and has been used as a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement and marches for social justice.  

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.  

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