Grammy- and Academy Award-winning singer Melissa Etheridge announced Tuesday on Twitter that she will be performing the national anthem at Sunday’s NFL showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots.
Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, and says she was “raised a Chiefs fan.” The winner of the Chiefs-Patriots game will face off against either the New Orleans Saints or Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.
Etheridge, 58, will perform at the Chief’s Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, and the game will be the first time the team has ever hosted the AFC Championship. As noted by LGBTQ sports site Outsports, the last time prior to this season that the Chiefs won an NFL playoff game was in 1993 — the same year Etheridge came out publicly.
Ceyda Mumcu, a sports management professor at the University of New Haven who has researched sports marketing to LGBTQ fans, noted that the choice of an out lesbian to perform at this high-profile NFL game is especially notable due to the unique ability of sports to “unite people.”
“The Chiefs-Pats game will be a heavily-watched, attended game, and Melissa Etheridge’s performance will be a part of the game experience, which will spark conversations, allow interactions and change hearts and minds,” Mumcu told NBC News.
According to Nicole Melton, a sports management professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who researches the experiences of LGBTQ sports employees, the NFL’s decision to have Etheridge perform at an event of this magnitude “communicates a message of inclusivity to LGBT fans.”