Warren “Wawa” Snipe will perform at an event this weekend that many artists only dream of making an appearance at — the Super Bowl. Snipe, who is Deaf, is set to perform the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” in American Sign Language (ASL) during the event’s pregame, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) announced last month.
“I was very honored and humbled to be selected to perform these songs at the Super Bowl,” said Snipe, a creative artist who acts, creates, performs music and more. “It was always my dream to perform at the Super Bowl, and I would love to be able to perform the halftime show in ASL too!” Snipe added.
Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan will be singing the national anthem during Super Bowl LV’s pregame events, with H.E.R. scheduled to sing “America the Beautiful.” Snipe told CBS News he and the other performers will be rehearsing together “to ensure we are aligned and ready for game day.”
Snipe explained that the ASL performances typically match the tenor, rhythm and tempo of how singers perform the songs. He said has been preparing by practicing a rendition of the songs that “closely tracks” how this year’s singers typically perform them. “My approach will follow how this year’s singers handle the songs in their own way,” the 50-year-old avid football fan said.
There has been an ASL performer at the Super Bowl since 1992 and the NAD has been involved with the NFL in choosing the ASL performer since 2009, according to Howard A. Rosenblum, the NAD’s chief executive officer & director of legal services.
Snipe said that he believes it is important to have an ASL performer for the iconic songs at the big game for a main reason: “Access. Simple as that.”
“The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community needs access to these iconic songs just like everyone else,” Snipe explained. “To those who are hearing, try watching television with the sound and captions off, and you’ll experience inaccessibility. Why wouldn’t you want to make everything accessible to everyone, including Deaf and Hard of Hearing people?”
He added that the representation of people in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community delivering the ASL performance in public venues “matters because ASL is the language of our community and it should be one of us doing the performance.”
To help make live events more accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, Rosenblum told CBS News that “ideally” the ASL performances of the iconic songs would be “shown in their entirety” during the television broadcasts.
“In addition, every live event should ensure that any ASL performance or interpretation is visually displayed on large screens within the event so that everyone can see it, as well as accurate captioning provided by professionals available throughout the event for all to see,” he explained. “Both ASL and captioning are needed as each serves different segments of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community – with some being fluent only in English or ASL, and others being fluent in both.”
Broadcasters have been criticized in the past for not airing full ASL performances at the Super Bowl. “The Deaf community would like to view the ASL performances in its entirety on broadcast television,” Rosenblum said. “We do look forward to that day. We appreciate the efforts by the NFL to push sports accessibility to new heights.” The NAD plans to post the full version of both performances on its YouTube page following the live broadcast.
While the chance to perform at the Super Bowl may be one of the highlights of any artist’s career, Snipe has been taking the stage for years. He had his first taste of performing in middle school, then majored in theater in college.
Snipe developed “Dip Hop” in the late 1990s, which he defines as “Hip Hop through Deaf eyes,” with a mix of audio and images.
“Hip Hop is the hearing culture version, and it is necessary to show a Deaf Culture version of Hip Hop,” he explained. “Dip Hop is a different genre to help hearing people understand Deaf Culture as well as for Deaf people to understand Hip Hop.”
In 2016, Snipe released “Deaf: So What?!” an album that aimed to show the appeal of music to all, the NAD said. He recently released his third album, titled “Wamilton.”
In addition to his work as a trailblazing recording artist, Snipe is also an actor and said he is currently involved in both film and television projects. Notably, he has had a recurring role in The CW series, “Black Lightning.”
He explained that he hopes his work in film and television “paves the way for more opportunities for Black Deaf actors as we are too often overlooked for roles.” Snipe added, “It is my hope that Hollywood realizes that there are many of us ready to be part of the acting world.”