Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen expressed outrage at the Super Bowl LVIII crowd for not standing during the black national anthem.
“Very, very few were at the Super Bowl for ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ The Black National Anthem. “It’s not a pretty picture of the Super Bowl crowd.” Cohen complained about X.
Sunday marked the second straight Super Bowl in which the ballad was performed live on the field for the big game. The poem was sung by Andra Day and caused much fanfare from the audience.
The black national anthem was composed by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson in the late 19th century as an ode to the hope of freedom and faith of African Americans.
Cohen, who is Jewish, represents Tennessee’s 9th congressional district. which is 66.8% black. He is the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.
“I am in favor of both. And in Memphis, most do,” Cohen responded when an X user criticized (sic) the use of two national anthems.
“I honor our national anthem and respect it for representing our country and our pride in it. However, if you look at the history and some of the verbiage, it relates to slavery and not in a questionable way,” he later explained.
Before last year’s Super Bowl, during which the NFL officially played the anthem live on the field before kickoff for the first time, the league had played the black national anthem at other games.
For years, the NFL had been consumed by controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In 2018, the NFL began prohibiting players from kneeling during the anthem and remaining in the locker room if there was a problem.
A group of black athletes, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the national anthem to protest the treatment of black Americans in the country, sparking a backlash.
Cohen has stoked controversy with his tweets about race relations in the past, including a nonsensical post in 2013.
“I told the African-American tow driver my week -father -DNA test, not father reporter/attractive fallout. He (not aware of TN9) says: You are BLACK! “I,” he posted on Twitter, as he was called then.
He later explained that it was a joke and suggested that his black constituents see him as one of their own.
“It was fun. It was fun. I had a rough night. Here’s what happened: I drive an ’86 Caddy. A lot of African Americans drive old cars (a stereotype). A lot of African Americans drive old cars.” Cohen later told MSNBC.
“I’m not having any luck. He takes me, we get rid of the car, I come back and tell him the story. …He says, ‘Man, you’re black.’ And I took it as a compliment. I hear it in Memphis all the time. My constituents don’t see me as a white person, they say, ‘You’re one of us.'”
Cohen had previously sent black Democratic candidates to the primaries for his seat, including one who cut an ad trying to link it to the Klu Klux Klan. He has served in Congress since 2007.