Cee-Lo Green Joins NFL’s ‘Thursday Night Football’

Cee-Lo Green’s about to shake up the NFL.

Green is taking over the NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” intro, and in typical fashion for the flamboyant rapper-singer he’s putting his own spin on things. Rather than the traditional artist-centered pre-taped opener, the NFL and Green are inviting fans to submit videos of themselves singing along to the chorus of a song based on The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

Photo: AP Photo
NFL Super Bowl XLVI, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

“I think this brings a splash of color to a, you know, bland and black-and-white backdrop,” Green said. “And make it colorful and make it fun and make it young. Make it exciting and highly enthusiastic, you know what I’m saying?”

Beginning with the Sept. 13 “Thursday Night Football” season opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, fans of each team can submit videos of themselves singing along to the chorus of the new song, “I Love Football.”

Green said the crowd-sourcing feature of the “Fanthem” helps make the intro exciting and young. It’s designed to help the league’s effort to increase its social media presence.

Brian Lockhart, the NFL Network’s coordinating producer of features and production design, says shows like Green’s “The Voice” and other entertainment programs have had great success in marketing in untraditional ways on the Internet. Previous NFL prime-time intros have been focused on individual performers like Faith Hill and Hank Williams Jr., who split with ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” last year.

“And I don’t think sports has really taken a chance, especially broadcast sports hadn’t taken that opportunity to go beyond maybe just having a Facebook page or a Twitter page – ‘Hey, post a question here,’“ Lockhart said. “We wanted to do something that went from broadcasting to fans and became more about engaging with fans.”

Lockhart said the NFL hopes “Fanthem,” produced by (at)radical.media, will reproduce the feeling fans in a stadium have when they suddenly see themselves on the Jumbotron.

The intro also helps Green continue his genre-smashing ways – “I call it accommodatingly ambiguous,” he joked of his ability to effortlessly cross lines. By picking up an anthem like “Blitzkrieg Bop” – with its ubiquitous chorus of “Hey, ho, let’s go!” – Green adds another facet to an already varied career. A star as a singer and rapper, he’s also broken through on television with his role on “The Voice” and will soon start his own Las Vegas show.

“I’m definitely a Ramones fan,” Green said in a Tuesday phone interview. “Punk rock is like pots and pans, like making something out of nothing, which is what hip-hop is as well. And both of them early on in their humble beginnings were alternative music. … And therefore it’s an alternative to the Faith Hill rendition, the Hank Williams rendition and any other one that we’ll co-exist with.

“I talk like a politician but I’m a punk at heart.”

Green says he hopes his association with the NFL will coincide with a Super Bowl season for his hometown Atlanta Falcons.

“I’m a definitely a Dirty Bird, man, to the death of me,” Green said