"Inner City Blues" was featured in the HBO Sports Documentary A City on Fire: The Story of the '68 Detroit Tigers
. Gaye was loyal to Detroit teams and even wanted to become a professional football player with the Lions in 1970 after the death of his singing partner Tammi Terrell left him depressed and confused about his role in the music industry. The singer had never played football before in his life, but he was confident he could become just as big a star on the field as he was in the recording studio. Former Lions cornerback Lem Barney told the LA Times
of Coach Joe Schmidt's first interaction with the newly bulked-up Gaye: "If I could sing like you, I certainly wouldn't want to play football," he had said. With the weight of Gaye's music career also resting on the tryout, Schmidt decided the singer was too much of a liability.
Would-be teammates Barney and running back Mel Farr provided backing vocals on subsequent, politically charged hit "What's Going On