NCAA Division III school including Black national anthem in pregame festivities

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An NCAA Division III university decided to play “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” before every home game in any athletic event for the rest of the season.

Gannon University, a private school in Pennsylvania, decided to play “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” ‒ otherwise known as the Black national anthem ‒ in wake of the racial tension and unrest that occurred last summer over the police-involved deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake.


“The Black national anthem is a song about faith and resilience. The decision to play the Black national anthem is one of many efforts to foster change,” Gannon’s provost and vice president Walter Iwaneko told the Erie Times-News on Monday. “It is also a reminder that we must work together and listen to the experience and hope of all our students and co-workers and to commit now to a culture of inclusion and genuine friendship that celebrates what makes each of us who we are.”

Kevin Jefferson, Gannon’s men’s basketball coach, approached the school about playing the song before games. He said the song would be played at Historically Black College and Universities when he was coaching at Division I schools.

“When I was coaching on the Division I level, we went to a historically Black college for a game and they played the Black national anthem before the game,” he told the newspaper. “I remember that I knew about the song, but I never heard it played before a game. Some of the other coaches and most of the players had no idea what it was, but the song has great history and education.”

The song is played after “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Inclusion of the song appeared to be supported throughout all the programs at Gannon University.


The Black national anthem was played during the first week of the 2020 NFL season. The league included it as part of its pregame festivities as part of its commitment to supporting social justice movements. The song was also played before the start of Super Bowl LV.

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