At UF, national anthem will move hearts, fingers

Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 11:22 p.m.

"The national anthem is a song that has a special place in the heart of all Americans," says Alexandra Klein. "And no one ... should be deprived of enjoying it."

With that sentiment in mind, the University Athletic Association has decided to have a person versed in sign language signing the national anthem as it is being sung or played at future Gator basketball games, Gator gymnastics meets and Gator baseball games.

The first event to have the national anthem signed along with its playing was at Friday night's gymnastics meet against LSU.

Klein is a teaching assistant for American Sign Language and the treasurer of the Signing Gators, a group that has been pushing for the move.

"We have been wanting to do this for a long time," said Klein. "Setting up signers for these events is nothing compared to the daily struggles those with hearing loss incur. It is a way to show these members of our community that we care and support them."

UF says the decision to have the anthem signed as a matter of policy was another way to accommodate all fans.

"It's just initiative, and we think it's important," said Meghan Fitzgerald, University Athletic Association assistant marketing director. "We have done it before, but now we want to continue to do it regularly."

Clint Clark, of the O'Connell Center tech division, says UF has the technology in place to make it work.

"We have hearing-impaired listening devices installed in the facilities that are parallel to the main speakers," said Clark. "[But] these must be requested by the people prior to the events."

The Signing Gators, the group appointed to sign the anthem at the events, is very satisfied with UF's decision.

Michael Tuccelli, senior lecturer of American Sign Language and Signing Gators' sponsor, thinks that "the national anthem being signed in the sports venue is just a logical move."

But the Signing Gators are not the only ones pleased with this new policy.

"We are fortunate to have found someone to come out," said Fitzgerald of the athletic association. "Everyone is important; we want to make sure we are providing for them. We thought it was important that we did it for the fans who are in the stands."

Tuccelli believes that "having the national anthem done visually as well as auditorily gives greater meaning to the anthem."

"I've been trying to get the athletic department to have the students sign the national anthem during sports events," he says. "The Florida vs. Auburn football game a few years ago was our first and only opportunity until this semester."

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