'It means a huge amount': Team NWT debuts inclusive uniforms at Canada Summer Games
Northwest Territories was the first province or territory to join You Can Play project in 2015
They may be one of the smallest teams at the Canada Summer Games, but team Northwest Territories is hoping to start a movement through the debut of new uniforms promoting inclusion and equality.
The uniforms — which feature a rainbow-altered version of the Team NWT logo — were created for the territory's more than 80 athletes who are part of the You Can Play initiative, a project that aims to "ensure the safety and inclusion of all in sports — including LGBT athletes, coaches and fans," according to their mission statement.
In 2015, the Northwest Territories became the first province or territory to sign on to the initiative.
"Hopefully, over time, we'll get more provinces and territories joining in," said Team NWT spokesperson Ollie Williams. "If we can keep that momentum growing, it'll be great."
Williams, who shot a video promoting the initiative and featuring athletes at the Canada Summer Games, said that the buy-in from the team was universal.
"Everybody could tell me more than I could tell them," he said. "And everybody knew somebody who it applied to.
"We have athletes here who this message directly applies to, and we know, because they're in the video telling us. And it means a huge amount to interview somebody and them to say: 'Hi, I'm on the team, and it's amazing that everyone is doing this for me.'"
"My identity has shifted since," he said. "But I remember being in all kinds of locker rooms and playing sports, and being around people and knowing I can't share that with anybody here.
"Rightly or wrongly, I don't know what would have happened. But that was the atmosphere. And if we can change that, if we can get to a point where people actually feel safe to talk about these things and be themselves, and play sports at the same time, that'll be huge."
This won't be the last time Team NWT wears the rainbow uniforms. Williams said the team plans on making them part of the team uniform for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games and beyond.
"If we can do what we can with the 80-some athletes that we have here... if we can take steps that way and just gradually get that message out, that'll be fantastic."
With files from Loren McGinnis