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How the 2020 Super Bowl broadcast failed the deaf community

Medical Pharmaceutical Translations • Feb 19, 2020 12:00:00 AM

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

If you watched this year’s Super Bowl or simply saw clips of singer Demi Lovato’s hit rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, you got a few glimpses of sign language interpreter Christine Sun Kim. Emphasis on “a few”. And that’s the problem.

When the deaf community learned that Kim had been chosen as the Super Bowl’s sign language interpreter, they were thrilled. Known for her expressive and creative signing, she was the perfect person to do the job of interpreting the national anthem, as well as the song “America the Beautiful”.

But what seemed so promising ended up disappointing many deaf people who watched. For one thing, the main television broadcast barely showed the interpreter. Because they couldn’t follow, deaf people were once again shut out from experiencing the national anthem.

The result was frustration, as well as feeling lied to. Fox, the network airing the Super Bowl in the US, had promised to feature the interpreter heavily during the performance. The channel also offered a feed on the Fox Sports website that they claimed would be entirely trained on her during the song. Instead, even this feed only occasionally featured the interpreter, opting to show performers and wide shots as well.

Read on for reactions from members of the deaf community, as well as theories as to why this may have happened.

You can also read Kim’s opinion on the situation, here.

A rare shot of Kim interpreting at the Super Bowl (Image source)

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