Lawrence Brownlee was chosen by the New York Jets to sing the national anthem before their game against the Baltimore Ravens, but the operatic tenor faced a difficult decision.
In a statement Sunday morning, he said he found himself "being torn in two different directions." As the son of a veteran, Brownlee wrote, he was honored to be given the opportunity to sing the anthem — as he has before.
"I am grateful for the fact I have far more opportunities to succeed today as a man of color than my ancestors who were alive when the anthem was written," he said.
He added, however, that he "cannot ignore how protests around the national anthem have escalated as of late. My fellow Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother Colin Kaepernick began the movement by silently protesting the anthem in hopes that the public discourse regarding race relations, police brutality and misconduct toward people of color would change."
Brownlee said the San Francisco quarterback's decision is "an act of protest which I agree with and support wholeheartedly." The opera star said he's hopeful "people are gradually moving toward equality in all areas," and asked himself whether he would sing the anthem before the game or "stand in silent solidarity."
"In the end, I decided to use the voice that God has given me to sing," Brownlee wrote, "to sing with the conflicting emotions that pull at my heart ... the honor, the pride, the frustration, the sadness ... Colin Kaepernick's message, the hope of my ancestors, and the sacrifice of those who gave their lives protecting our flag.
"And I will keep on singing until I can no longer do so."
— Dennis Waszak Jr. reporting from East Rutherford, New Jersey.