Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Russell Wilson, C.J. Spiller pay tribute to late Gospel singer Aretha Franklin

The world lost one of its most popular R&B voices, one of its top-selling artists of all time and a Gospel Music Hall of Famer on Thursday with the passing of Aretha Franklin.

The daughter of a minister who began her singing career in a Detroit church choir, Franklin was, as Christianity Today put it, “at the forefront of the ‘soul music’ era, that particularly rich, inventive period when gospel music and R&B fused to create music powerful enough to be both danceable and culturally significant.”

It’s no wonder, then, that her death at age 76 impacted those well beyond the music industry.

Even the sports world reacted in tribute on Thursday, almost two years after she put her own spin on the national anthem before a 2016 Thanksgiving Day game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. The Lions and their own Ford Field called Franklin a “groundbreaker” and “unparalleled icon” after the announcement of her passing, while Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and former NFL running back C.J. Spiller chimed in with salutes to the “Queen of Soul.”

“I remember growing up on your music,” Wilson said of Franklin. “Now the angels in Heaven get to sing it to you.”

Like Franklin, Spiller and Wilson have also used their careers as platforms for their Christian faith. A former first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills who also played for the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs from 2010-2017, Spiller has credited God and the power of prayer for his path to the NFL, and his Twitter bio points praise to his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” with a mention of Luke 12:48. Wilson, meanwhile, regularly shares Bible verses and is among the NFL’s most outspoken about his faith.

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