Earlier this afternoon, Darren Rovell tweeted out a photo of some ground-breaking jerseys that the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (the Cubs’ High-A affiliate) will wear this season as part of their Deaf Awareness campaign:
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 23, 2018
The jerseys feature the team’s name spelt out in America Sign Language (ASL), the predominant sign language for deaf communities in the United States and Anglophone Canada. The language, developed in the early 19th century by the American School for the Deaf, works by using elements of the face, torso and hands to communicate different letters, numbers, and words. While many words and concepts are borrowed from North American English, ASL has its own system of grammar, as well as unique ideas and signs that do not relate directly to words in a spoken language.
Professional sports are, by their very nature, an inherently ableist pursuit. The way they explicitly self-select for physical and cognitive abilities can alienate large sections of the population that aren’t able to participate. As such, it makes all the sense in the world for sports franchises to use their platforms and resources to give back to communities centred around disability. We thought that this gesture by the Myrtle Beach Pelicans was so creative and well done that it would do well for the concept to spread to other teams and other leagues.
We used ASL fingerspelling — the process of signing individual letters to spell proper nouns or words without their own unique signs — to create a list of the NBA equivalents, in the hopes that some low-level PR staffer could see this article, present the idea to upper management, claim that the whole thing was their idea, and be rewarded with a cushy promotion. Somewhere with a corner office.
Away we go.