Edmonton

CFL player agent shamed on social media over blackface costume

An Edmonton sports agent faces shaming on Twitter after he posted a picture of himself in blackface Halloween costume on social media.

Agent defends costume which he says 'pushes limits of what is socially acceptable,' but still 'in good fun'

Jason Staroszik, a CFL player agent, is being criticized for recently posting a picture of himself in blackface for Halloween. (Instagram)

An Edmonton sports agent whose company represents CFL players across the country is being shamed on Twitter for a post of himself in blackface wearing a prison costume.

Mindy Grewal took a screenshot of an Instastory Jason Staroszik posted on his Instagram account Thursday night. The post shows a man in blackface wearing an orange prisoner jumpsuit and flashing a gang sign.

Staroszik​ is listed the CFLPA website as a player agent and owner of New World Agency. The site lists Staroszik​ as representing players from five CFL teams including three Edmonton Eskimos.

"I was honestly really appalled initially because I know the type of work he's in and I know the type of people that he represents," said Grewal, an acquaintance of Staroszik​

"To see this come out from a younger person who should be aware of situations like this that are happening, it was really kind of gross.

"I don't want his career to be over but I would like him to acknowledge what he did was wrong," she said.

Agent's statement

Staroszik​ declined an interview with CBC News but sent a statement saying the picture was from 2013.

"The costume was intended to push the limits of what is socially acceptable but still be in good fun, without harming or offending anyone," the statement reads.

"The costume was well received throughout the night, with no controversial or negative accusations. There was no issues surrounding the costume the night it was worn or in the five years that have past."

Staroszik​ said he understood that in light of current media stories "why someone would try to bring this photo to life five years after the fact, to try to prove a point of what is or isn't acceptable to their beliefs."

CBC News requested reaction from the Edmonton Eskimos organization including the players represented by New World Agency, but the request was declined.

On Twitter, Eskimos wide receiver Jamill Smith Jr. called out Staroszik​ for being unaware blackface is rooted in racism.

"This is trash. If you don't know this history of blackface, then go look it up," Smith tweeted.

'Not racist ... just stupid'

Former Edmonton Oilers player Georges Laraque said Staroszik​ should know better.

"It's not racist, but it's just stupid," Laraque said. 

"It's impossible to not know how much negative attention this has drawn when people are doing this [blackface]. Every time somebody does it publicly, people get upset and it's all over the place."

The backlash is fair, Laraque said, but compared to more serious acts of racism, blackface gets more attention than it deserves.

"I understand why some people take offence to it, but there's actually black people dying, suffering injustice way worse than somebody wearing a Halloween costume," Laraque said.

"That's why I think it's better to put energy toward better and more important cause."

travis.mcewan@cbc.,ca