Country superstar Chris Stapleton, 12-time Grammy winner Babyface and Emmy-winning actress-singer Sheryl Lee Ralph all performed on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., ahead of the Super Bowl LVII showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs. But three other performers — Oscar-winning CODA actor Troy Kotsur, deaf Navajo scholar Colin Denny and deaf TikTok sensation Justina Miles — nearly stole the (pre)show with historic appearances that set a new standard for inclusivity at the big game.
On the YouTube TV “Pre-Kick” show, Babyface’s lovely, live and refreshingly un-Auto-Tuned rendition of “America the Beautiful,” played on a star-spangled acoustic guitar “in celebration of our country,” was signed by Denny in both American Sign Language (ASL) and Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL) — one of the most documented regional variations of North American Indian Sign Language and a “lingua franca” used by both deaf and hearing people to communicate between tribes. In a statement to the University of Arizona, Denny, a research assistant at that school’s College of Education, explained: “A lot of people aren’t aware of [North American Indian Sign Language] and that it has always been here, even if we don’t see it. That’s something I feel needs national recognition and revitalization for the community.”