PEI

Sports organizations need to be proactive and educate players on racism, says consultant

A diversity consultant says sports organizations need to take proactive measures when it comes to fighting racism and encouraging inclusion among athletes.

'We have to adopt a learning culture'

Sport P.E.I. says some of its members have shown interest in learning more about inclusion following some high-profile racist incidents involving hockey players from the province. (PhotoStock10/Shutterstock)

A diversity consultant says sports organizations need to take proactive measures when it comes to fighting racism and encouraging inclusion among athletes.

Bradley Sheppard, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who's now dedicating his time to anti-racism training, will be speaking to Island coaches, athletes and sports officials Monday as part of a series of webinars hosted by Sport P.E.I.

The organization said some of its members have shown interest in learning more about inclusion following some high-profile racist incidents involving hockey players from the province.

Sheppard said that while racism isn't unique to sports, the pressure some of these athletes are put under can bring out the intolerance they learn outside the arena.

Organizations need to create a sense of 'psychological safety' for all players, says diversity consultant Bradley Sheppard. (Submitted by Bradley Sheppard)

"Racism is bigger than sports," he said. "If you are exposed to things in your society, like cultural messaging — for example, 'Black people are this or Indigenous people are this or gay people are this' — when you're exposed to that in society, and you go on the ice and you're in a high pressure situation, the chances of those thoughts manifesting into actions and behaviours increase big time."

'Adopt a learning culture'

Sheppard, who is from Cape Breton, N.S., said his experience with racism as a Black man living in a predominantly white area has influenced his views on the subject.

He said having these kinds of conversations about race is key to addressing these issues.

"I think we have to adopt a learning culture," he said. 

"Sometimes, young people ... go along with what society prescribes them or tells them to be. But once people start thinking independently, start thinking about their values and their leadership in the role in society and the part that they play, it tends to shift the script a bit."

Racism is bigger than sports.— Bradley Sheppard

Sheppard said organizations need to create a sense of "psychological safety" for all players, including people of colour, different sexual orientations and neurodiverse athletes. 

He said people in different positions of power may have never been exposed to these sorts of issues, and that being proactive and developing some self-awareness are the first steps to changing things.

With files from Island Morning

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