With all the secular options available for Super Bowl week, the NFL decided to host an event for the faith-based community. The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration is an annual concert held in the host city during the Super Bowl festivities. At this event, players and locals get the chance to enjoy some of the best gospel performers in the industry. The sanctioned NFL event is allowed to use the league’s trademark.
“It took a lot of joy, pain, sunshine and rain to get to today. I have seven years of rejection letters from the NFL but finally, we are here,” said Melanie Few, founder of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration.
The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration took place on Thursday, Jan. 30 at the James L. Knight Center in Miami. The gospel celebration started in Miami in 1999 and 2020 marks 21 years of the show’s run.
“I was here for the first one. Melonie Few is one of the hardest working women I know. She had a vision that this can be bigger than just this one space. She created an evening where everyone in the faith community can come together to sing and praise before the biggest game in the world,” said Yolanda Adams, headliner of the gospel celebration. Along with Adams, some of the other artists who performed in the celebration were Donnie McCurkin, Travis Greene, BET “Sunday Best” winner Le’Andria Johnson, and the NFL Players Choir. The event was hosted by Ricky Smiley.
“People are going to be blown away by the singers and performers tonight. The NFL choir is one of the best choirs in the USA. After they sang “Lord I want you to help me” they can tackle you,” said Smiley.
Few and her team put together an event sanctioned by the NFL. Any event not sanctioned or licensed by the NFL but marketing itself as such can be liable for serious consequences. According to Forbes, in 2007 the NFL sent a letter to an Indianapolis Baptist church for advertising a “Super Bowl” party and planned to charge admission for viewing on a screen larger than 55 inches. Since then the NFL has eased its policies regarding their trademark but people can still get in trouble for using certain words like Super Bowl or the teams' names when advertising events. The NFL has a team that searches for people or organizations that use the intellectual property of the league illegally.
Few was successful in securing the sanction because she approached the NFL in the early ‘90s. At the time, people could get events sanctioned by the NFL throughout the Super Bowl Host Committee. Few and her team were able to secure their sanction by booking Gladys Knight for the first gospel celebration in 1999. It wasn't until 2011 when the NFL decided only six events were allowed to use the trademark. That number was cut down to three in 2016 and the gospel celebration made the cut.
“We became one of three sanctioned events and it's nothing but the grace of God that allowed this. We are the little engine that could because we don't have full-time staff all year. God brings the right people in place and we make a lot happen with a little,” said Few.
The celebration was broadcasted on BET on Feb 1st. Few and her team plan to rest and then gear up for 2021’s Gospel Super Bowl Celebration in the host city, Tampa.
“I could not do this alone at all. It would not be going on for this many years if I did not have dedicated friends, family, and people who volunteered their time to help me,” said Few.