The cheerleadersâ gesture, which began in September 2016 shortly after Kaepernickâs protest gained notice, is not the only distinguishing mark in Howardâs pregame program. For decades, at home games the anthem has been paired with âLift Every Voice and Sing,â the turn-of-the-century hymn that has become known as the black national anthem.
The âLift Every Voiceâ tradition at Howard games goes back at least to the 1980s, according to Howardâs former sports information director, Edward Hill Jr. And the songâs informal stature as the black national anthem predates the codification of âThe Star-Spangled Bannerâ as the national anthem in 1931, said Imani Perry, a Princeton professor whose book on âLift Every Voiceâ is due out next year.
During âLift Every Voice,â which on Saturday was played immediately before the national anthem, the Howard cheerleaders, the bandâs dancers and some spectators in the crowd of several hundred raised their arms in the Black Power salute. Then, with a flourish, the cheerleaders, one at a time down the line, switched from raised fist to bent knee, like a row of falling dominoes.
There was no booing from the crowd, as there has been at several N.F.L. stadiums where…