At the end of February, Miami Heat star, Chris Bosh, spoke to the media about his opinion on penalizing players who use the “N-word”. He said that a lot of the players in the NBA say it in a joking way, but not everybody thinks it’s a joke, Bosh included.
However, Bosh agrees that banning the word would be a tough rule to regulate because it’s the referee’s word over someone else’s, which can cause discrepancy. But he does say that things must change.
Sometimes locker room banter can cater to the majority of the team, whatever majority that may be. But what is often forgotten is the feelings of those marginalized athletes. This can happen in the NBA, the NFL and even Canadian universities.
The Racialised Students Collective is a student group at Ryerson that aims to create an anti-racist climate on campus. They aim to provide this anti-racist environment through campus-wide services and campaigns. Has our athletics department ever reached out to this group to talk to their athletes? Not in the last five years, at least.
Does Ryerson athletics address the topic of racialised athletes and the appropriate behaviours and language that should be used? Not in any formal manner. But some feel it is not needed. Five out five racialized[CT1] Ryerson athletes who were polled by The Ryersonian say that a formal discussion is unnecessary. They explained that an official discussion, a paragraph in the student-athlete handbook, or mandatory seminars would create a separation between racialized and non-racialized athletes – furthering the concept that they are “different”.
It’s a universal understanding in the athletics department to respect everyone – no matter who they are. Athletes feel they are in a safe space when they are comfortable to speak up if they happen to feel offended or uncomfortable. All of the polled athletes said that they have never been the victim of a racial slur or derogatory term from their peers in the athletic community. The Ryerson Rams official mission statement begins with: “Ryerson athletics champions a spirit of belonging.” This affirms that the Ryerson athletics department welcomes all races, genders, and sexualities. The athletic staff is comprised of multicultural members and therefore sets an example for the athletes to be respectful and inclusive to all.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 12, 2014.