Raptors could join other Canadian athletes, teams in pushing for change - InfoNews

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Raptors could join other Canadian athletes, teams in pushing for change

Minnesota Wild's Matt Dumba takes a knee during the national anthem flanked by Edmonton Oilers' Darnell Nurse, right, and Chicago Blackhawks' Malcolm Subban before an NHL playoff game in Edmonton, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. On the opening day of the NHL's restart during the COVID-19 pandemic in Edmonton, the Regina-born Dumba made a speech calling for social and racial justice before kneeling for the American anthem prior to an Edmonton Oilers-Chicago Blackhawks game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
August 26, 2020 - 11:08 AM

Players from the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are contemplating a boycott of playoff games along with other ideas to protest systemic racism and police brutality this week.

Over the years, Canadian athletes and players on Canadian teams have brought attention to social and political issues with actions on and off the field of play.

Here is a look at some notable moments with Canadian connections:


Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey stood strong behind the first Black player to play in the major leagues, with Robinson breaking the colour barrier at the top level of the sport when he made his debut in 1947. Robinson was named rookie of the year that season.

A year before that, Brooklyn assigned Robinson to the Montreal Royals, its triple-A affiliate. In April 1946, Robinson became the first Black player to play in a minor-league game when Montreal faced Jersey City. The Royals went on to win the International League title that year.

In 2011, U.S. diplomats unveiled a commemorative plaque at the apartment Robinson and his wife Rachel called home in the summer of 1946.

"You can't make (enough) of the house because it's where the experiment started and the experiment went on to be a national success, so it led to something," Rachel Robinson said.

"What was nourished there in that house … had widespread influence in our society."


Canada was one of 66 countries to boycott the 1980 Summer Games because of Soviet-Afghan war.

The decision left just 80 countries in the Olympics.

Canada's call didn't sit well with all of the country's athletes. Former pentathlete Diane Jones-Konihowski was critical of the decision.

Jones-Konihowski, a 69-year-old Vancouver native now living in Calgary, doesn't regret her actions.

"I don't... because it (the boycott) was wrong," she said. "We were still trading wheat with Russia, we were still having Aeroflot planes land (in Canada).

"Suddenly we were a priority with the federal government. We'd never been before... and so I was very, very angry."


In protest of American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the then-Toronto Blue Jays slugger exited the field during the playing of "God Bless America" in the seventh inning of games starting in the 2004 season.

There were brief chants of "USA! USA!" when he lined out in the top of the seventh at Yankee Stadium during one game in 2004. During a moment of silence before "God Bless America" was played during the seventh-inning stretch, derisive shouts were made in his direction.

The native of Puerto Rico started standing for "God Bless America" again when he was traded to the New York Mets before the 2006 season.

"I gave him my views on that subject and I also said I would not put myself in front of the team," Delgado said. "The Mets have a policy that everybody should stand for 'God Bless America' and I will be there. I will not cause any distractions to the ballclub."


During a playoff game in 2010, the Suns, led by Victoria's Steve Nash, wore "Los Suns" on their jersey.

The decision to wear the jerseys on the Cinco de Mayo holiday came after a law was passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer that drew widespread criticism from Latino organizations and civil rights groups, feeling it could lead to racial profiling of Hispanics.

"I think it’s fantastic," Nash said of "Los Suns."

"I think the law is very misguided. I think it's, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it's very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us."


All players from the Indiana Fever, inclduing Natalie Achonwa of Guelph, Ont., knelt and locked arms during the anthem before a 2016 playoff game, following similar protests by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

This summer, all Seattle Storm and New York Liberty players walked off the court as the national anthem was played before a game. Longtime Canadian national team star Kia Nurse of Hamilton plays for the Liberty.

The WNBA said in a pre-season press release that all aspects of the game and player outfitting would be dedicated to Black Lives Matter and to honour victims of police brutality and racial injustice.

"That's the most important thing about this season, bringing awareness to the injustices that are going on throughout the whole world really, just having these conversations, bringing light to what's going on . . . being leaders in that aspect," Minnesota Lynx forward Bridget Carleton of Chatham, Ont., said.


The first team professional sport to return to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic made a statement on its opening weekend.

National Women's Soccer League players from the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage knelt during the American anthem in late June as the Challenge Cup tournament opened on national television in Utah.

Longtime Canadian national team star Christine Sinclair of Burnaby, B.C., is a member of the Thorns. Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe plays for the Courage.

"We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against Black people and people of colour in America. We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard. It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone," the Thorns and Courage said in a joint statement released before the game.


On the opening day of the NHL's restart during the COVID-19 pandemic in Edmonton earlier this month, the Regina-born Dumba made a speech calling for social and racial justice before kneeling for the American anthem prior to an Edmonton Oilers-Chicago Blackhawks game.

"It was to shed light on the people who've lived through injustice and oppression, especially in my home state of Minnesota," the Minnesota Wild defenceman said.

Dumba then raised his fist for both the American and Canadian anthems during his team's first game the next day.

A day after that, four players from the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights knelt for the anthems.

— With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 26, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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