Super Bowl 51's spirited start not without controversy

ByDanny Clemens KGO logo
Monday, February 6, 2017
"America the Beautiful" is sung before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
Singers of the cast of Hamilton, Phillipa Soo, right, Rene Elise Goldsberry, center, and Jasmine Cephas Jones, sing "God Bless America."
Singers of the cast of Hamilton, Phillipa Soo, right, Rene Elise Goldsberry, center, and Jasmine Cephas Jones, sing "God Bless America."
Singer Luke Bryan sings the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
Country music artist Luke Bryan sings the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017.
Country music singer Luke Bryan sings the National Anthem, before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
Singer Luke Bryan sings the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
Former President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara, wave as they arrive on the field for a coin toss before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game.
Former President George H.W. Bush arrives on the field for a coin toss before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots.
Former President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara enter the field, before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
Former President George H.W. Bush before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
Former President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara wave as they arrive on the field for a coin toss before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game.
Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders listen during the National Anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots.
Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders line up before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
Singer Luke Bryan sings the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
9Country music artist Luke Bryan sings the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
Fans cheer during the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
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"America the Beautiful" is sung before the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.
AP Photo/Morry Gash

HOUSTON -- Before the game even got underway, Super Bowl 51 got off to a spirited start -- but the star-studded pre-game performances were not without controversy.

Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Phillipa Soo -- who originated the roles the Schuyler sisters in the smash hit Broadway musical 'Hamilton' -- opened the festivities with a rousing rendition of 'America the Beautiful.'

The trio attracted criticism on social media for altering the song's lyrics, seemingly to make a political statement, adding the word "sisterhood" to the line "and crown thy good with brotherhood."

Country superstar Luke Bryan took the stage next, delivering a heartfelt performance of the National Anthem and holding his own against Lady Gaga's glitzy 2016 performance.

Bryan earlier this week promised he would "follow my heart and follow the vibe of the room."

"I never had the opportunity to serve in the military, but I feel like a little way I can serve my country is using my voice to do the anthem and always uplift and bring some smiles to men and women in the armed forces," he added.

Actor Kriston Lee Pumphrey performed the anthem in American Sign Language alongside Bryan.

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, then took part in the pre-game coin toss. The former first couple got a huge ovation, including applause from coaches and players from both teams, when they came onto the field slowly with Barbara in a golf cart and the 92-year-old former president being pushed in a wheelchair next to her.

Bush, the nation's 41st president, was recently released from Houston Methodist Hospital, where he received treatment for pneumonia for more than two weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.