Sports have helped the Deaf community to integrate into the American mainstream while simultaneously protecting a sense of separateness and distinction. One of the key cultural negotiations occurred when reformers sought to transform Deaf society by promoting oralism and lip reading at the expense of signing. To fight against this effort at “normalization,” deaf men took to the playing fields to affirm their physical equality in the most “normalizing” American pursuit—football. The deaf men’s success on the gridiron simultaneously argued for the strength of Deaf culture and community. At Gallaudet College (later University), athletics and particularly football became a prooftext to argue for equal treatment. The very act of playing against hearing opponents implicitly argued for Deaf equality. The deaf footballers’ physical prowess belied the idea that deaf people suffered from weak constitutions and physical limitations. Football became a physical discourse through which deaf athletes not only argued for physical and cultural equality but proved it on the field of competition. Deaf students and educators averred that sports instilled the ideal masculine traits of athleticism, courage, toughness, teamwork, and an assertive character.