Carrie Underwood holds the record for the longest-running singer of the NFL theme song, but not without facing some controversies. In 2019, singer-songwriter Heidi Merrill claimed that Underwood and her team had plagiarized the previous year’s theme, “Game On,” from her.
Underwood was announced as the singer for the “NBC Sunday Night Football” theme song by the NFL in 2013, succeeding Faith Hill who held the role for six years. Over a decade, this role has become synonymous with Underwood. This led many songwriters to eagerly vie for involvement in each year’s new offering. In 2017, Heidi Merrill submitted a song for consideration by Underwood’s producer. When Underwood’s “Game On” was released as the following year’s theme song and bore striking similarities to Merrill’s submission (without proper credit), Merrill and her team filed a lawsuit.
Merrill and her co-songwriters, Niclas Lundin, Alex Wong, and Jeff Cohen, claimed that the resemblance between Underwood’s “Game On” and their own was not coincidental. They pointed to an acknowledgment of receipt from the assistant to Mark Bright, Underwood’s producer, suggesting that their track had been heard before the creation of Underwood’s song. They cited similarities in song title, note progression, chord progression, among other elements. As a result, they alleged substantial financial losses and sought a jury trial for damages.
Merrill’s lawyer, Sam P. Israel, stated that he believed the similarities were a deliberate attempt to appropriate the work of other artists. However, just under four months later, the lawsuit was quietly dropped. The exact reason for the withdrawal was not disclosed. Despite this legal episode, it did not seem to affect Underwood’s standing with the NFL or NBC. In September 2023, she released a reboot of the beloved “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” in honour of the new season. Merrill’s “Game On” remains available on YouTube for those interested in adding it to their game day playlist.