British Columbia

Canadian to sing O Canada at Seahawks game amid knee-taking controversy

An invitation to sing the Canadian national anthem at an NFL game in Seattle has Vancouver's Arielle Tuliao questioning the role of anthem singers amid the league's knee-taking controversy.

Arielle Tuliao will stand to sing Canadian anthem, but plans to kneel during American anthem

Vancouver's Arielle Tuliao says she won't take a knee while singing the Canadian national anthem at an upcoming Seattle Seahawks game — but she will afterward, during the American anthem. (CBC)

When Vancouver's Arielle Tuliao got the call from the Seattle Seahawks inviting her to sing the Canadian national anthem at an upcoming Canadian fan appreciation game, she was elated.

"I cried," Tuliao said. "I absolutely bawled."

But that was before the controversy over NFL players kneeling in protest during the American anthem reared its head again, prompting her to question whether she should accept the offer at all.

"[American President Donald] Trump's comments had come out, and next thing I knew, I felt all this pressure on me," she said.

Last week, Trump said National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem.

"I was like, what am I going to do?" said Tuliao, 28, an anthem singer who has performed for the Vancouver Canucks and Whitecaps.

 "Should I do anything? And if I do, what does that mean for my country?"

Cancelled, then un-cancelled

Tuliao's initial excitement soon turned to anxiety. So, when the Seahawks called on Wednesday to cancel her performance, she was secretly relieved.

"Now I didn't have to make this difficult decision."

The Seahawks said they were cancelling because they didn't want to involve Canada in the anthem fray, she said.

But the next day, the team called back and told her the cancellation was premature and they still wanted her to sing — it was, after all, a Canadian fan appreciation game.

So Tuliao steeled her resolve and accepted.

To kneel or not to kneel?

She said she has decided not to kneel while singing the Canadian anthem. 

"I'm going to do what I was asked to do, and I'm going to sing the anthem and I'm going to sing it well, and I'm going to celebrate my country."

But once she's on the sidelines for the singing of the American anthem, she plans to take a knee in solidarity.

"I think that all the players doing what they do is a very courageous thing, and it's such a small way of showing them: I believe in the same thing you believe in. I support what you're doing," she said

Free speech issue

"Because it's not only all the issues that they're standing up for — they're standing up for each other," she continued. "And so as a fan, why shouldn't I support them? It just feels right."

Tuliao doesn't expect everyone to agree with her — but that's the point.

"You're free to think whatever you want to think — just don't try and stop someone from doing something that's peaceful."

Tuliao will be singing at 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, when the Seahawks will face the Indianapolis Colts in Seattle.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast.