The Empress of Soul has been tapped to perform the National Anthem at the 53rd Super Bowl on Feb. 3

By Helen Murphy
January 18, 2019 12:00 PM
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Heard it through the grapevine … Gladys Knight is performing at the Super Bowl!

The NFL announced Thursday that the Empress of Soul will sing the national anthem at the 53rd Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” Knight, 74, said in a statement released by the NFL.

Knight has won seven Grammy Awards and is an inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The legendary singer has also recorded two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles — “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For”.

Gladys Knight

Last year, Pink took the field to sing the national anthem while battling the flu, before the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots to take home the trophy. Country star Luke Bryan sang the anthem in 2017.

Pink performs at the Super Bowl LII in 2018
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

Even though the national anthem performance is locked up, the halftime show has faced controversy in the last week.

After the announcement that Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott would perform at the Super Bowl LII Pepsi Halftime Show, Scott, along with the other performers, faced criticism from fans who implored him to back out of the event to support Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the #TakeAKnee movement to protest racial injustices.

Colin Kaepernick and Travis Scott
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images; Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Scott then said that he had only agreed to play the halftime show if the NFL agreed to join him in making a joint donation to a charitable cause.

“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” Scott said in a statement to PEOPLE. “I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation. I am proud to support Dream Corps and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”

On Tuesday, Variety reported the rapper, 26, had a phone conversation with Kaepernick, 31, about his decision to perform. TMZ also confirmed that the call occurred.

However, Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa, posted a series of tweets on Wednesday, slamming Scott and saying there was “no understanding” between the two.

Reps for Kaepernick and Scott did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

When asked to share her thoughts on the Kaepernick situation, Knight responded to Variety in a written statement asking fans to separate the two situations.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice. It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone,” she wrote.

“I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s Anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII.”

Knight continued, “No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it. I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us.”

The 53rd Super Bowl will be held on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. The national anthem will be aired live on CBS prior to kickoff.