The Stories of the Super Bowl LVII ASL Interpreters

In the grand spectacle of the Super Bowl, where cheers and music reverberate through stadiums, a silent yet profound performance takes center stage—the art of American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. Join us as we delve into the captivating stories of the interpreters who graced the 2023 Super Bowl, shedding light on their backgrounds, cultures, and the extraordinary importance of their roles.

Troy Kotsur: Oscar-Award Winning “CODA” Actor

Oscar winner (“CODA”, 2021) and Arizona native Troy Kotsur, a Deaf performer renowned for his extraordinary ASL storytelling, will provide the ASL performance of the National Anthem. 

For his outstanding performance in the Oscar-winning film CODA, where he portrayed a compelling Deaf father, Kotsur became only the second Deaf person to win an Academy Award. His remarkable portrayal has earned him Best Supporting Actor awards from BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Kotsur has left an indelible mark on both stage and screen. From Broadway in Spring Awakening to numerous productions with Deaf West Theater and the National Theatre of the Deaf, he has showcased his versatile artistry. Most recently behind the scenes of The Mandalorian, Kotsur’s impact extended to creating Tusken Sign Language for the Star Wars series.

The word "CODA" appears with hands that have "CODA" fingerspelled in front of each letter. At the top of the screen you see the different Sun Dance awards the movie won: "U.S Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic", "U.S Dramatic Special Jury Award - Ensemble Cast", "Directing Award: U.S Dramatic", and "Audience Award: U.S Dramatic.
The word “CODA” appears with hands that have “CODA” fingerspelled in front of each letter. At the top of the screen you see the different Sun Dance awards the movie won: “U.S Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic”, “U.S Dramatic Special Jury Award – Ensemble Cast”, “Directing Award: U.S Dramatic”, and “Audience Award: U.S Dramatic.

Image Source: Apple TV +

Colin Denny: A Preserver of Languages

Colin Denny, a Deaf Native American hailing from Shiprock, New Mexico, and raised in Pinon, Arizona, within Navajo Nation, brings a unique perspective to ASL interpretation. His journey is deeply rooted in a family dedicated to teaching, with parents who teach the Navajo language.

Colin, born into the Water Flowing Together People Clan and Coyote Pass People Clan, seeks to promote sign languages, with a goal of teaching American Sign Language and mastering North American Indian Sign Language. As a research assistant at the University of Arizona, he contributes to the study of North American Indian Sign Language. Pursuing a Masters of Art in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University, he is dedicated to the preservation and mastery of sign languages.

The image shows “Navajo Nation”, also known as Navajoland, is a Native American reservation of Navajo people in the United States. Three Mesa-top mountains are shown in a desert land.

Justina Miles: First Deaf Woman Super Bowl Performer

Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, Justina Miles, a Philadelphia-born performer now living in Maryland, made history with an ASL rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing, a first at the Super Bowl. She was also the first woman to perform at the Super Bowl pre-game and halftime shows. She single-handedly performed an ASL interpretation of Rihanna’s music during the Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show in Super Bowl LVII.

Beyond her Super Bowl performance, Justina is a nursing student and cheerleader at Bowie State University, a prestigious HBCU. A silver medalist at the 2021/22 Deaflympics in Brazil, she was part of the 4X100 women’s track relay team for the USA. As the valedictorian at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington DC, she continues to dazzle audiences with her ASL interpretations at concerts throughout the country.

The History of Super Bowl Interpreters: A Journey of Inclusion

The inclusion of ASL interpreters at the Super Bowl has been an evolving journey. The first ASL performers appeared in 2022 for Super Bowl LVI when Sandra Mae Frank, Warren “Wawa” Snipe, and Sean Forbes each provided sign language translations for the National Anthem and halftime show. This new and inclusive tradition continued for Super Bowl LVII and will continue to Super Bowl LVIII in 2024.

A trophy with a football on it sits next to a football with a red background.
A trophy with a football on it sits next to a football with a red background.

As we conclude this exploration into the world of Super Bowl interpreters, our call to action extends beyond the game. Tune into the Superbowl this year to witness the beautiful visual storytelling of ASL interpretation. And if you’re looking to go above and beyond, embark on your own ASL learning journey and pick up a few signs before Super Bowl LVIII on February 11th, 2024.

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