It seems that every year accessibility at the Super Bowl just somehow gets worse and worse. Every year, every ASL instructor in all levels of education and millions of deaf fans from all over the United States and in the world, become excited for the Super Bowl because they want their family, friends and students to see real representation of the Deaf Community in the United States. And where else is the best place for that representation? The Super Bowl.

Yet, while modern technology has improved drastically, but, and this is a BIG BUT, deaf representation has not. It’s kinda ironic that the last time that an actual performer stood next to a deaf person signing in person to a full audience was when Marlee Matlin was a very young woman during Super Bowl XXVII when she signed along side with Garth Brooks. It’s funny. Marlee Matlin actually performed in three different Super Bowls, the most of anyone in the history of deaf performers in the Super Bowl. She did it again when Billy Joel performed at Super Bowl XLI and most recently, in Super Bowl 50 alongside with Lady Gaga. Since then, well, it’s either the performers weren’t really visually available and/or they performed using picture in picture technology.

Click to see Marlee Matlin live performance with Garth Brooks in 1993.

Yet, it’s 2022. We seem to be going back in the past. Over and over again. Maybe we’re not asking the right questions. Before, when entertainment performers wanted deaf representation onstage, they would demand it, right? But then again, the last time that actually happened was in 1993 when Garth Brooks DEMANDED that Marlee Matlin be next to him when he performed his songs. You would think that would follow suit over the years, right? Well, no. You would think that since 2013 when there was an outcry against NAD, NFL and CBS that NBC would improve the Super Bowl experience and that NBC would’ve learned from their experience.

Oh man, this year was way worse than that. Before, when CBS hosted the Super Bowl, they had a direct website for people to go and view deaf performers such as when John Maucere performed in 2013 Super Bowl and offered a “Fan Choice” to perform the National anthem and America the Beautiful prior to the kick-off. Guess what? Every year after that followed the same pattern, Super Bowl broadcasters would keep deaf performers separate from entertainment performers. Renee Fleming performance was signed by Amber Zion in a separate broadcast. Idina Menzel with Treshelle Edmond, again, in a separate broadcast. Luke Bryan with Kriston Pumphrey, guess what? Separate from the performer. In any of these performances, they were never and I quote, side-by-side. So, did NBC do anything differently, meh, just one. They got two deaf world renowned rappers in what they were suppose to perform alongside, or, well, that what we were suppose to think.

Two deaf rappers performed at Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show. All credits go to NBC Sports.

They weren’t even close to the performers. They were very, very far away and hidden from the audience and the fans. You don’t have to believe me, just watch the video yourself. Look at all of the fans in the background cheering on the performers when they should be and have every right to be on that center stage like everyone else.

The right question we should be asking: Did NAD really do everything to make sure that we are getting 100% accessibility with the programming when it comes TO ALL SPORTS BROADCASTERS DURING THE SUPER BOWL: THIS MEANS, CBS, NBC, FOX, AND AMAZON?

Fox Sports will be hosting the Super Bowl in 2023 and 2025. CBS will be hosting the Super Bowl in 2024.

Or do we need new NAD leadership and a new visionary of what should accessibility look like NOW and in the NEXT TWENTY YEARS because the leadership we have had in the last ten years is losing their grip?

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Thomsen Young

Founder of SG