A panel on racial equity in sport was included in this year’s Women in Sport conference at UNB. The aim of the conference, which was held virtually from April 9-11, was to use the power of sport as a catalyst for social change and gender equity.
The panel consisted of Shanice Marcelle, professional indoor & beach volleyball athlete; Lee Anna Osei, St. FX women’s basketball head coach; Joanna Alphonso, St. FX X-Women rugby athlete; and Olivia Rowinski, UNB Reds women’s soccer athlete.
“When the idea [of the panel] came up in a meeting, we all promptly agreed that it was much needed. How will we create change if we are not advocating for all women in sport?” said Anna Lee Leblanc, Event Director of the conference. “In my opinion, these are the three most important steps in creating change in our society and furthering the conversation of women in sport.”
Leblanc believes that the biggest issue for People of Colour in sport is representation. Currently, women in college athletics sits around 42-46 per cent, with women of colour taking up only a small amount of that percentage. She says there is a huge discrepancy between Caucasians and People of Colour on sports teams starting from high school all the way to the elite level. A lot of these athletes have had derogatory comments made about them or received looks from people simply because of the colour of their skin.
Leblanc said, “I don’t think many individuals understand how much a look can affect someone, especially in a sporting context. Even though these athletes are confident in their abilities, and in themselves, these negative experiences can shape their lives.”
Although more people are becoming aware of these issues and are taking steps to better themselves, a large number still aren’t as educated as they should be.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values for the UNB Reds teams. Leblanc, who is Asian and a member of the Reds Cross Country team, says that the coaches at UNB treat all the athletes equally and encourage diversity.
While there might not be specific efforts to understand the experiences of People of Colour in sport, Leblanc explained that the individuals who are part of, and work for, Reds Athletics understand that steps need to be taken to improve our society regarding this topic.
On the Women in Sport website, there are resources for people to refer to regarding this topic, including Anti-Racism Resources (Experiences Canada & Team Canada), Black Lives Matter: CAC Response and Resources (Coaching Association of Canada), and Black Lives Matter: AASP’s Statement and Resources Related to Recent Racialized Events.
“In terms of Women in Sport taking action, we are speaking up, celebrating women in sport, educating ourselves and others, creating communication opportunities, inviting women, and connecting abilities,” concluded Leblanc.