The Super Bowl Gospel celebration airs around the country this month, bringing praise for Jesus from the mouths of National Football League players and Christian music stars to major TV channels. The concert has been going on for 15 years and is an NFL-sanctioned event—one of only a few that can use the official “Super Bowl” title. In addition to the NFL Players Choir, which includes current and former NFL players, the live concert showcases notable names in gospel music such as Donnie McClurkin, Patti LaBelle, and Natalie Grant. The concert occurred the weekend of the Super Bowl, though it aired later in many areas of the country (and may yet air near you.)
Gospel duo Mary Mary kicked off the glitzy celebration in Madison Square Garden with the very funky “Go Get it”, while the mostly African-American audience grooved appreciatively. Natalie Grant left the Grammys early, but she was definitely right on time for a superb performance at this show. Dressed in a red velvet jacket and backed by a choir, Grant stirred the audience to raise hands and wave arms as she belted out a terrific version of “Breathe On Me”. Also present was 2013 American Idol winner Candice Glover who led a duet with two-time Grammy winner Patti LaBelle.
The 40-member NFL Players Choir, dressed in blue and white choir robes, formed the evening’s centerpiece. Swaying and jumping with infectious enthusiasm, players traded lead vocals on the foot-stomping song “It’s Time” by the Winans family. Choir robes notwithstanding, the players’ evident strength and passion lent credibility to these lyrics: “What is the world coming to/seems like everyone is running from the truth/We must stand up and fight/walk into the light/we are the people, we can do it if we try.”
The broadcast included interviews and stories of NFL players talking about their faith. Tommie Harris of the Chicago Bears recounted the disorientation and sadness following his wife Ashley’s tragic death in 2012, which left him a widower with two children. God brought him through, he explained. And in the hard times he always remembers his mom’s voice, “God will never bring you this far to leave you.”
According to Newsday, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jason Avant summed up the reason for his participation in the event, saying, “I sing gospel songs and scriptures going up to the line of scrimmage. I need that constant reminder because we are playing a dangerous game. If I can keep God’s word on my mind, it makes me full of faith in times of fear when the game is on the line.”