Calgary

Football star joins Calgary's George Floyd protest, shares own experiences with racism

A former Calgary Stampeder and Canadian Football Hall of Famer says he was proud to march with more than 1,000 protesters this week — in solidarity with people in the U.S. furious with the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — but that racism is much closer to home for him.

Jon Cornish marched with 1,000 protesters Monday after an experience of his own just days earlier

Calgary Stampeders' Jon Cornish announced his retirement from the CFL in 2015. This week, he marched with more than 1,000 Calgarians protesting the police killing of George Floyd in the U.S. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

A former Calgary Stampeder and Canadian Football Hall of Famer says he was proud to march with more than 1,000 protesters this week — in solidarity with people in the U.S. furious with the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — but that racism is much closer to home for him.

Jon Cornish says he was out for a walk with his wife near their northwest Calgary home last week.

"We passed a person's house who was out in their yard on their phone. We cut right behind her, in her lane. She is mad about something. She tells us to get back here and she is going to call the cops," Cornish told The Homestretch on Tuesday.

"Generally my wife and I don't get involved with people randomly calling us out. We got a little bit uncomfortable with her saying she was going to call the cops. My wife and I were out for a walk together. Why would she draw that conclusion?"

And it didn't stop there.

"So then we identify her in her car, slowly rolling along, definitely looking for us. We get to an intersection. She actually rolls up, she has her camera out recording us. At this point, I am afraid for my wife's safety, my own safety, so we snapped a picture of her licence plate. She goes off on us, telling us to get out of her neighbourhood and that she never wants us to come back. It was pretty disconcerting considering I have lived in the Triwood area for about 10 years."

Acknowledging his privilege as a professional football player, Cornish says that kind of incident is pretty rare for him in Calgary, but said that was not the case when he played college football in Kansas years ago.

"I encountered enough police in my time in Kansas, that I had to add 15 minutes to any drive, because the police were pulling me over as soon as I left the parking lot."

Last year, Cornish set out to give back.

"I wanted to start my own group with the ideas I hold dear, like volunteerism, giving back, mentorship. I tried to identify a group in need of that. We concluded there is almost an under representation of people of colour in business here in Calgary," he said.

A former Calgary Stampeder and Canadian Football Hall of Famer marched in Calgary against police racism and shares a personal experience of his own. 7:31

"I like to think Calgary in one of the most business-minded cities, entrepreneurship is a part of our blood here. Our goal is to help students who want to get into the professional ranks."

Calgary Black Chambers had 130 members just before COVID-19 shut everything down, along with partnerships with Mount Royal University, SAIT and Bow Valley College.

"Sharing this idea with different people has allowed it to grow naturally," Cornish said.

With files from The Homestretch

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