OUA Announces the Creation of the Black, Biracial and Indigenous Task Force
*In order to influence change across the OUA landscape, the provincial sport organization announced the creation of the BBI task force. Men’s football leads the way for Laurier’s efforts*
2020 has been an unprecedented year around the world especially in the aspect of equality and social justice. Sports which has notoriously been viewed as a distraction from pressing social and political issues, has no longer been able to stay silent and has become integrated with the push for social justice.
While social unrest remains prevalent around the United States, sports leagues have embarked on initiatives and committed towards social justice change. The NBA displays “Black Lives Matter,” (BLM) on the court and allowed their players to pick from a list of messages that could be inscribed on their jerseys to push for change. Players from the MLB and MLS consistently kneel before each match as a show of support for BLM and structural change.
Prominent commissioners, media members and most notably athletes have raised their voice towards a better and more inclusive society. The “stick to sports” motto that commonly is attached to athletes and that many of these players have obliged to, seems to be erased now.
With the violence seen across the border, and the documented history of racism in the United States, it has become long overdue for sports leagues to actively address prevalent issues that impact their fans, players and coaches. “Sticking to sports,” is no longer acceptable given the platform that these professional sports teams wield.
The OUA and leagues north of the border have wisely noticed that systemic racism and violence is not just an American problem and have created important initiatives to impact change.
Last month, Ontario University Athletics created the Black, Biracial and Indigenous task force. The task force was launched by the OUA in order to help influence change across the OUA community. In a statement released on their website, the OUA stressed the importance of emphasizing the diversity of the conference’s athletes and administrators and pledged to better support the black and indigenous communities as part of the organization’s overall strategic plan.
The OUA is committed to playing a more active role in helping Black, Biracial and Indigenous members of the OUA and this task force has been comprised of numerous passionate and credible individuals who will lead that effort.
President and CEO of T1 Agency, Mark Harrison will lead as the chair of the BBI task force. “I am humbled and honoured to chair the BBI task force. I am committed to working on behalf of the current, future and past black, biracial and indigenous student-athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, fans and volunteers in the OUA,” Harrison said in a statement.
The new task force has consistently met over the past several weeks and have run three virtual town halls that were open for anybody to view. On Aug.ust 12th, they hosted a student-athletes town hall, and followed the next day with a coach’s town hall. The following week, the task force held their third virtual broadcast which was the administrator’s session, once again open entirely to the public.
The group which consists of student-athletes, coaches, administrators and other partners will continue to meet consistently. The membership strives towards contributing to a better future and having an important conversation about the important issues, encouraging all voices to be heard.
Vice-chairs Christa Eniojukan and Kadre Gray, Ontario Tech Women’s Basketball Coach and Laurentian Voyaguer Basketball star will both play vital roles in achieving the goals of the task force.
“We are tired of seeing inequity and as part of the BBI task force, we hope to change this narrative for our brothers and sisters to come,” Gray a two-time OUA male athlete of the year said in a statement made to the OUA.
Coach Eniojukan echoed the words of Gray in a statement to the OUA: “the task force has been having great discussions on focus areas for BBI student-athletes, coaches and administrators… we are hopeful to make an everlasting change.”
To help in the attempt to achieve an everlasting impact and positive change across the conference, the OUA have focused on five main areas of focus which will guide their membership.
OUA policy change, anti-racism training, racial violence rules, financial access and mental health issues are the five areas of focus for the BBI task force. The membership will consistently meet and plan around initiatives that will tackle these five issues. It remains to be seen how much of an impact the task force will be able to bring to the largest university sports conference in the country.
The OUA is encouraging participation and input from anybody impacted by these issues and credited the student-athletes and teams who have already used their professional platform to spread awareness and deliver difficult but important messages.
In addition to Harrison, Gray and Eniojukan, the initial task force membership includes prominent figures such as Sportsnet host Donovan Bennett and Yukon University President, Dr. Mike DeGagne. Charles Kissi, head coach of the CEBL’s Guelph Nighthawks and third-year Laurier linebacker Tommy Bringi are also a part of the group.
Assistant coach of the Raptors 905 and Head Coach and General Manager of the Guelph Nighthawks, Charles Kissi has always been a powerful voice on social issues says Ali Sow. Golden Hawk star guard, Ali Sow who was drafted by the Nighthawks and Charles Kissi this past summer credited Kissi for his actions.
“He has always been outspoken and involved on the issues at hand. Whether it be challenging organizations like the OUA and USPORTS to try and do better and start initiatives like this, he is special and a leader in that realm,” Sow said of his professional coach.
“The task force shows the kind of people we have around the OUA and is definitely a special initiative. I think we are all pushing to be better,” Ali Sow continued.
Leading the way for the Golden Hawks is linebacker Tommy Bringi. Coming off of an active year on the field, being named a first-team all-star for the first time of his career, Bringi has taken more of an active role off the field with being a part of this membership.
The football team at Laurier is making a big impact off the field under Coach Faulds as veteran teammate Brentyn Hall started his own initiative this past summer.
Fifth-year wide receiver, Brentyn Hall who has been super productive for the Golden Hawks over the past two seasons started the IamGeorgeFloyd initiative back in June. His idea focused on racial injustice and made custom t-shirts and sweaters that were available for purchase.
100% of the proceeds that Hall receives are being sent to the Canadian and American Civil Liberties Association’s. Hall created this initiative to raise money and awareness for social justice and in order to enact change. After the first week of selling his apparel, Hall tweeted that his net proceeds were already over $5,000.