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Friday
Jan202017

Faith and football: Are you ready for the 18th annual NFL Superbowl Gospel Celebration?

Singers Fred Hammond (L) and Donnie McClurkin (R) perform at the 16th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at ASU Gammage on January 30, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. (Credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty)EEW Magazine News // Sports

Share The NFL Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, the only multicultural event sanctioned by the National Football League, will kick off Super Bowl 51 on Feb. 3 with its 18th annual star-studded concert at Lakewood Church in Houston.

Thousands will uplift the name of Jesus ahead of Super Bowl XXXIII, infusing faith into the biggest sporting event of the year.

The annual event joins key NFL players, top gospel, contemporary Christian and mainstream Grammy Award-winning artists and special guests on one stage to bring audiences an evening of uplifting music and inspirational messages.

The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration was launched in Miami in 1999 during Super Bowl XXXIII weekend.

“We founded this event to bring even more inspiration and celebration to one of the biggest events of the year — the Super Bowl,” said Melanie Few-Harrison, creator and executive producer of the event.

She continued, “Each year we aim to touch lives in a meaningful way and make the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration bigger than the last with artists and special guests. We look forward to kicking off Super Bowl 51 in Houston and making our mark as the best, most uplifting event we’ve had.”

One highlight of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration is the Players Choir, which features current and former NFL players.

The choir made its debut at the 2008 show with more than 40 members.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first African-American players to enter the professional football league, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. Both were hired by the Los Angeles Rams in 1946 when the city informed the Rams that it could not lease their newly built home stadium to a segregated team.

The law required that because public funds were used to build the new facility, the Rams had to have at least one African-American player on its roster.

On the recommendation of the stadium commission, the Rams subsequently signed the two former students from the UCLA Bruins football team — Mr. Washington in March 1946, and Mr. Strode two months later.

Coincidently, Mr. Washington and Mr. Strode were not the only Bruins to break the color barrier in professional sports. Another member of the team’s backfield, Jackie Robinson, became the first African-American to play with a professional baseball team when he signed a year later with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947.

RELATED: BMI's Top 10 most performed gospel songs of 2016

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