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updated: 2/7/2012 12:07 PM

Miss Deaf America upset she's unseen at Super Bowl

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  • Rachel Mazique performs in sign-language "America the Beautiful" during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert performed the English version.

      Rachel Mazique performs in sign-language "America the Beautiful" during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert performed the English version.
    COURTESY OF Rachel Mazique

  • PHOTO BY Anita Mazique-Cervantes. Rachel Mazique steps onto the field during Super Bowl XLVI festivities at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

      PHOTO BY Anita Mazique-Cervantes. Rachel Mazique steps onto the field during Super Bowl XLVI festivities at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

 
 

During the Super Bowl, television cameras showed everything from Eli Manning's young family to hip-hop singer M.I.A.'s obscene gesture.

Yet, they didn't for one second show the National Association of the Deaf's Miss Deaf America Rachel Mazique -- an Arlington Heights native and Hersey High School alumna -- as she signed the national anthem and "America the Beautiful."

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Mazique doesn't believe she appeared on the stadium's Jumbotron, either; wasn't invited to stay for the game; and wasn't placed near singers Kelly Clarkson, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton.

Even though she says she was never promised television exposure (but was told to smile the whole time, just in case), her treatment at the big game has upset many people in the deaf community, especially those in the suburbs. Now her supporters are rallying for an apology from NBC and the NFL through an online petition at change.org.

As of Monday night, more than 1,000 people had signed the petition, including some from as far away as New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

"We are very upset by this," said Angie Kubiak of Mount Prospect, who is deaf and whose husband and three sons also are deaf. "We waited and waited to see Rachel appear to perform, only to be disappointed. Everyone of all ages in the deaf community across the country was expecting to see Rachel Mazique appear on TV, even if only for a few seconds. We thought we would see something even go on the Internet. She has nothing from NBC."

No one from the NBC or NFL could be reached for comment Monday night.

Mazique said she was grateful to sponsors PepsiCo and EnAble for allowing her to sign at the game as the NAD ambassador but was "very disappointed" about the missed opportunity to show the world American Sign Language. She questioned the point of her appearance, since her signing wasn't visible to an audience.

"The hope was to bring national visibility to songs signed in ASL. It would have been wonderful to showcase 'America the Beautiful' and the national anthem in ASL on television," she said. "I truly hope that this becomes a teachable moment for everyone involved, and that American Sign Language renditions of these iconic songs are broadcast in future Super Bowls rather than being a token gesture."

Mazique, who now is teaching and working on her Ph.D. at the University of Texas, is hailed as a role model for the deaf community. By keeping her out of the spotlight on what turned out to be the most watched television show in history, NBC and the NFL missed a chance to show the world that deaf people can be successful and that sign language is beautiful, said petition creator Kate Spencer, a former college classmate.

"What an insult," Kubiak said.

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