While countless multitudes in Miami opened the Super Bowl weekend with drinking and partying Friday, thousands marked the occasion with singing and praising.
For the 11th year, football athletes and fans from around the nation gathered for the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration to revel in the big game buzz with the uplifting sounds and rich culture of Gospel music.
"It's the big game and a big weekend," commented Melanie Few, founder and president of Results, Inc., which produced the concert.
"We had a great time in Miami," she added.
Among the thousands who gathered at the James L. Knight Center Friday were Gospel music icons including CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin and Israel & New Breed, who graced the stage with performances, as well as the popular NFL Players All-Star Choir, which made its debut at the 2008 show with more than 40 members under the direction of Grammy award-winning Gospel star Donnie McClurkin.
Since its inception, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration has drawn crowds in the thousands and has demonstrated growth year-over-year with sellouts of venues in major markets hosting the Super Bowl including Miami, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, and Phoenix.
The gospel event, the first and only sanctioned by the NFL for Super Bowl Weekend, is designed to allow the Super Bowl host city the opportunity to experience the star-studded weekend with a inspirational family-oriented event.
"In 1996, Few recognized that many athletes and fans desired a safe, entertaining venue to celebrate the big game - not only show their love for football, but also be inspired by the uplifting sounds and rich culture of Gospel music," say promoters of the event.
Now, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration "proves to be one of the most attended activities during the Super Bowl Weekend," they add.
In addition to the music, the one-night event features inspirational messages from some of the NFL's key players and serves as a local outreach and fundraiser, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting national and local charities.
This year, part of the proceeds from the concert went to support the One Team 4 Haiti campaign, which the NFL Players Association, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) created to support earthquake relief and recovery efforts in Haiti.
Over the past nine years, more than $200,000 has been raised through the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration for special causes.
Past speakers for the event have included NFL greats Tony Dungy, Jerry Rice, John Elway, Chris Carter, Kurt Warner and Deion Sanders.