The rousing patriotic songs — “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” — performed before Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta were cheered by the pumped-up crowd in the stadium and seen in homes around the world.
But what the television audience did not see was another performance happening right next to the singers on the field — D.C. resident Aarron Loggins doing a theatrical, and quickly viral, sign-language interpretation of the songs.
A video of his performance, posted by the National Association of the Deaf on Facebook, has been viewed more than 1 million times and shared by more than 23,000 people. Many of them gushed over Loggins, who is deaf.
Loggins, 34 — a dancer, performer and graduate of Gallaudet University — was selected to do an ASL performance of the two songs by the National Football League and the National Association of the Deaf. His performance included sweeping gestures and rhythmic swaying as Gladys Knight belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the sister duo Chloe X Halle gave a soulful, harmonized rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Some people on social media were not happy that Loggins’s act was cut out of prime time. He was shown for a flash at the end of “America the Beautiful.”
Loggins, who was named Mister Deaf International in 2014, said he was proud of how he performed.
He said that although he is deaf, he was able to synchronize his performance with the singers by using an interpreter who gave him cues about whether the singers drew out certain words in the songs. He also said there was a rehearsal with the singers that helped him prepare.
“I rehearsed and came fully prepared to give my best rendition using all of my theatrical and emotional skills,” Loggins said in an email interview with The Washington Post.
He added: “I am grateful that my delivery has done honor to ASL and the deaf and hard of hearing community.”
Loggins called the experience of performing at the Super Bowl “amazing," and said that he hopes that the Super Bowl sign-language performances next year will be seen more fully on television, not only in the stadium and on social media.
“The community has shown that they want to see ASL,” he said. “Hopefully, future broadcasts will show more of the ASL performance.”
CBS did not respond to several emails and a phone call requesting comment on the broadcast.
Loggins, who is originally from Illinois, said he is the only deaf person in his family. He started to sign when he was 3 and said he learned to face adversity at an early age. When he was a child, he was told he would never be able to hold a job because he can’t hear. Now, in addition to being a performer, he is an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I take all such negativity and work hard to change it into positivity by proving myself and proving those naysayers wrong,” he said. “My motto is ‘Believe in yourself,’ which I have used as a mantra in my activism with deaf and hard of hearing children to encourage them to have ambitious goals and strive for them.”