Tag Archives: racial

MLB didn’t want to join Georgia legislature in turning back the clock on racial progress

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Texas governor Greg Abbott had been slated to throw the ceremonial first pitch Monday afternoon in Arlington, before the Toronto Blue Jays faced the Texas Rangers in a game whose original claim to fame was crowd size.

Four weeks ago, after Abbott announced the end of all mandatory COVID-19 restrictions for every business in the state, the Rangers announced they planned to make every seat at GlobeLife Park available for their home opener against the Jays. The decision made that game the first major sports event in the U.S. with unrestricted attendance since the pandemic was declared last year.

That Texas added nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases statewide on Monday wasn’t the issue. The sellout crowd would serve as an assertion of freedom and fearlessness, and every American’s right to spread a deadly disease.

In the end 38,238 spectators showed up to watch the Jays’ 6-2 win.

Missing from that number: Abbott, who cancelled his appearance to signal his disgust at Major League Baseball’s recent decision to move its annual all-star game out of Atlanta.

That move, of course, was MLB’s response to a series of new voting laws in Georgia that are neutral on paper, but in practice will disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. One provision outlaws providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote, even though recent elections have featured hours-long lineups at polling stations, with bottlenecks most common in black neighbourhoods.

WATCH | Georgia passes controversial voting law: 

The southeastern U.S. state legislature passed a bill introducing voter ID requirements, reducing ballot drop box locations and outlawing providing food and water to voters in lineups. Activists say the rules target Black and other racialized people. 6:02

You don’t have to read too far between the lines of the new election law to figure out that conflicts over voting rights will fall along racial lines. A New York Times analysis points out that new regulations would mean that Fulton County, where nearly 45 per cent of residents are Black, would go from 94 ballot drop boxes last year to just 23 for future elections. If you can foresee these new regulations teaming up to drag Black voters back to the 1950s, you’re not alone. Several critics, including U.S. president Joe Biden, have compared Georgia’s new law to the “Jim Crow” system of segregation that ruled the south for nearly a century.

Major League Baseball, which has its own well-documented history of segregation, decided it didn’t want to join Georgia legislature in turning back the clock on racial progress, and opted to move this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, triggering threats of retribution from a long list of conservative politicians.

The backlash is helpful, in that it highlights the hypocrisy undergirding the relationship between sports, business and politics. Abbott was happy to play ball, until MLB took a stand against a law tilting the electoral playing field in Republicans’ favour. Then, suddenly, the Rangers and Blue Jays weren’t worth his time.

‘Stay out of politics’

Sen. Mitch McConnell sent a stern message to MLB and other companies using their platforms and PR muscle to weigh in against the new voting law. “My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” said McConnell, whose donor list includes UPS, FedEx, and General Electric, to reporters Monday.

But, he added, “I’m not talking about donations.”

Watching the backlash — Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republican lawmakers now want to strip MLB of its antitrust exemption — becomes even more fascinating when you keep in mind that extreme reactions are the variable, and decisions like the one MLB made last week are constant.

As ESPN writer and baseball historian Howard Bryant pointed out, integrated seating in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium was a precondition for the Braves moving to the city from Milwaukee before the 1966 season. Even if segregationists hated it, conservative politicians didn’t scramble to cancel Major League Baseball.

In 1990, the NFL told Arizona lawmakers that it would move the 1993 Super Bowl out of the state if it didn’t recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. That decision failed to set off a chain reaction of Republican senators threatening to use the tax code to punish the league, but by 1992 Arizona recognized Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday, and the following year the Super Bowl came to Phoenix.

MLB’s decision, however, has triggered prominent right-wingers in a different way.

A month ago, republican politicians like Matt Gaetz, and infotainment outlets like Fox News, railed against “Cancel Culture,” arguing that making Mr. Potato Head gender neutral, or removing children’s books with racist images, were the political left’s attempt to erase cherished history.

By this week, Abbott had cancelled his date with the Blue Jays, while the #BoycottMLB campaign seeks to all but cancel America’s pastime. And it’s all happening three months after a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, hoping to consummate the ex-president’s quest to cancel the results of the 2020 presidential election.

But the numbers are the numbers. Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes, and the electoral college by 74. Vote numbers held steady after a series of recounts, and none of team Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud yielded credible evidence. Yet, the state legislature, bent on fixing problems that didn’t exist, overhauled voting laws, in the name of election integrity. It’s akin to MLB banning any pitch over 100 mph to crack down on sign stealing.

WATCH | Warnock, Ossoff score monumental senate wins in Georgia:

The Democrats have gained control of the U.S. Senate after winning two run-off races in Georgia. 2:00

Of course, the real motive, to extend the baseball analogy, was the Republican party’s 0-for-3 showing in the 2020 election cycle. Biden beat Trump for president, winning 73 per cent of the votes cast in Fulton County. Jon Ossoff defeated republican incumbent David Perdue for senate, and Raphael Warnock, with a high-profile boost from the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, topped former Dream owner Kelly Loeffler. Against that backdrop, the new law seems more like outlawing triple-digit velocity because you’re sick of striking out.

Those details also help clarify why MLB had to move its showcase event.

Race aside, you still have a law that advantages one party at the expense of its opponent. That’s an awful look for a league still in damage control mode after the Houston Astros cheating scandal, and trying to sell the idea of fair competition.

But race is central to the campaign to restrict voting access, and MLB is still reckoning with the long-term effects of its racist past, even as the percentage of Black big-leaguers hovers near historic lows. The league can’t align itself with any initiative that carries even a whiff of Jim Crow, and the new law carries a heavy scent of systemic racism.

And it’s all unfolding in a state where voters — who are also residents and potential customers — have sent an unambiguous message that they want the opposite of these new laws. So MLB did what businesses do all the time. They looked at the stats and listened to the numbers.

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CBC | Sports News

Racial trauma counsellors in B.C. see surge in patients amid ongoing anti-Asian hate

Ever since the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16 that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, Angela Leong stopped walking to and from work because she was too scared to be out in public.

“Quite frankly, I’m scared and I don’t want to work anymore,” Leong said. “I’m not comfortable with walking down the streets, so I started taking Uber exclusively just to go back and forth to my office.”

Leong, a registered clinical counsellor in Vancouver, says some of her Asian Canadian clients have been echoing the same fears and have stopped visiting the office after sunset. She said since the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in both in the United States and Canada, she’s seen an increase in patients experiencing racial trauma.

According to a report released in March by the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) Toronto chapter, there were more than 1,000 cases of both verbal and physical attacks against Asians across the country from March 2020 to February 2021. And since the start of the pandemic, Canada had more anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the United States.

In February, Vancouver police said they saw anti-Asian hate crimes jump by more than 700 per cent in 2020 as reports of incidents rose from 12 in 2019 to 98 in 2020.

Linda Lin, a registered clinical counsellor who focuses on racial identity and trauma, says she’s also seen a spike in people who are seeking mental health support.

“I noticed a tenfold increase in my caseload,” said Lin. “They are clients who are coming to talk about … past experiences of racialized verbal abuse or incidents linked with COVID-19.”


Racial trauma therapist Linda Lin said she also remembers the challenges of growing up with a different culture in a predominately white neighbourhood. (Submitted by Linda Lin)

She said racial trauma can stem from feelings of being marginalized while growing up in Canada or from feeling discriminated against because of ethnicity or race.

Leong said in the past two weeks, 66 to 75 per cent of her clients were from the Asian community, whereas just eight weeks before the shooting in Atlanta, only 35 to 52 per cent of her clients were Asian. 

“My patients have been telling me … there has always been aggressive behaviour as a result of their race or ethnicity,” she said.

Triggering events

Co-founder of the Asian Canadian Women’s Alliance and former journalist Jan Wong said the recent increase in anti-Asian hate is bringing back memories of her own experience of racism, which triggered a severe clinical depression.

In 2006, she said she received an onslaught of racist messages and attacks against her family’s Chinese restaurant after a story she published in the local paper.

“I noticed people in Quebec started … saying that we were serving cat and dog and rats and that we were dirty,” Wong told Canada Tonight host Ginella Massa.

“In fact the restaurant had to close.”


Jan Wong says hearing about the recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes is bringing back memories of the racist attacks she and her family experienced in 2006. (Submitted by Jan Wong)

She said hearing about the frequent racist attacks against members of the Asian community is having a negative impact on her.

“I have raised cortisone levels because of this, and if you have chronically raised cortisone, you can end up in depression,” Wong said. “It makes me really angry.”

Need for education

Rage and anger are common signs of racial trauma, according to Lin, as individuals who have been victims of racial abuse and violence often feel silenced and invalidated.

“I’m hearing stories of discrimination … and people are hoping to be seen and heard and hoping to be respected,” Lin said. “I’m also noticing people trying to protest not just for their own story of racial trauma but for their parents and their community as well.”

Queenie Choo, CEO of United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society (S.U.C.C.E.S.S.), says she’s not surprised to hear that there has been an increase in Asian Canadians seeking mental health support.

She said in January 2021, the organization received over 400 calls through its help line, which provides counselling services in Mandarin and Cantonese.


S.U.C.C.E.S.S. CEO Queenie Choo says that in January 2021, the organization received over 400 calls through its help line. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

“People feel that they are in such a vulnerable situation where they could be subject to attacks, whether that’s physical, mental or emotional … and I think that is all very negative to people’s mental health,” Choo said.

What the government is doing

When asked about federal efforts to combat anti-Asian racism, the Canadian Heritage department said in an emailed statement that the government set up an anti-racism secretariat in March 2020 and is “engaging on a regular basis with pan-Asian networks of community organizations” to discuss how it can be more effective in countering anti-Asian racism.

As part of a four-year anti-racism strategy announced in 2019, it has committed $ 15 million to 85 projects to combat racism and discrimination, it said, including anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

It has also created a Centre on Diversity and Inclusion at the Treasury Board secretariat and invested in more disaggregated data, the statement said.  

The statement also said the government is redoubling its efforts when it comes to:

  • Taking action on online hate.
  • Advancing economic empowerment opportunities for specific communities.
  • Building a whole-of-federal-government approach on better collection of disaggregated data.
  • Implementing an action plan to increase diverse representation in hiring, appointments and leadership development within the public service.

“There is more work to do,” the statement said. “However, our government will continue to condemn all forms of racism and take concrete steps to confront anti-Asian racism and discrimination in all its forms.” 

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CBC | Health News

PSG, Basaksehir players walk off field after alleged racial slur in Champions League game

The Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir was postponed until Wednesday when players walked off the field on Tuesday after alleging that fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of Romania used a racial term when identifying an assistant coach.

Players from the Turkish team were furious after assistant coach Pierre Webo was shown a red card by referee Ovidiu Hategan of Romania at Parc des Princes. They said Coltescu had used a racial term to describe Webo, who is from Cameroon, before he was sent off.

Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba demanded that Coltescu explain himself, while PSG players Neymar and Kylian Mbappé also demanded an explanation.

Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk told Coltescu “you are racist.”

The score was 0-0 when the incident took place about 15 minutes into the match.

WATCH | Players from both sides exit field after alleged racial slur:

The Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir was postponed until Wednesday when players walked off the field on Tuesday after alleging that fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of Romania used a racial term when identifying an assistant coach. 9:58

Match to resume Wednesday with new officials

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said the match would resume on Wednesday evening with new officials.

“Following an incident at tonight’s UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Istanbul Basaksehir FK, UEFA has — after discussion with both clubs — decided on an exceptional basis to have the remaining minutes of the match played tomorrow with a new team of match officials,” the organization said in a statement late Tuesday.

“A thorough investigation on the incident that took place will be opened immediately,” the statement said.  

Television footage captured the exchange between the fourth official and the referee, with Coltescu telling Hategan that Webo should be reprimanded for his behaviour on the sidelines.

“Go and give it [the red card] to the Black one, this is not possible [tolerable], go and identify him, go verify, the Black one over there,” Coltescu allegedly said in Romanian, about Webo.

In soccer, the fourth official is the title of one of the referees.

Players demand explanation

Webo was enraged and was heard to repeat at least six times “Why you say negro?” as he sought an explanation from Coltescu.

Moments later, Ba came off the bench and stood in front of Coltescu and said: “Why when you mention a Black guy, you have to say ‘This Black guy?’ “

During the interruption, Basaksehir posted a message on Twitter against a UEFA backdrop with the message “NO TO RACISM.” 


PSG retweeted the message and PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe, who was on the field during the game, also posted that message on his Twitter account.

Seven years ago, Hategan was in charge of a match between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City when City’s Black players were racially abused.

City captain Yaya Toure directed referee Hategan toward fans making monkey noises at the English club’s Black players.

Michel Platini, UEFA’s president at the time, requested an internal inquiry involving the referee to examine why guidelines were not followed to respond to discrimination incidents during matches.

WATCH | How activism has increased among Black athletes:

From the NBA to the NHL, our sports panellists look at the different responses from pro athletes in the wake of another police shooting of a Black man, in Wisconsin. Plus, the role fans need to play moving forward. 9:39

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CBC | Soccer News

Portland racial injustice protesters breach fence, police declare riot

Authorities declared a riot early Sunday in Portland, Ore., where protesters breached a fence surrounding the city’s federal courthouse building where U.S. agents have been stationed.

Police described via Twitter the “violent conduct of people downtown” as creating a “grave risk of public alarm.” Police demanded people leave the area surrounding the courthouse, around 1:20 a.m. Sunday, and said that those who fail to adhere may be arrested or subjected to tear gas and impact weapons.

By 1:40 p.m., both federal officers and Portland police could be seen on the streets, surrounding the courthouse, attempting to clear the area and deploying tear gas.

In the hours leading up to the declared riot, thousands of people gathered in the city Saturday evening for another night of protests as demonstrations over George Floyd’s killing and the presence of federal agents sent by U.S. President Donald Trump showed no signs of abating.

Crowds began to march toward the city’s federal courthouse around 9:15 p.m., some marching from eight kilometres away. A big group of demonstrators in the North Portland neighbourhood also paraded by the police precinct there, which was roped off and had officers in riot gear standing outside the building.

They paused outside a downtown hotel, where federal agents are staying, chanting “Feds go home” and yelling the names of Black people killed by police.


Federal law enforcement officers fired tear gas to try to break up the protest. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

As protesters marched down the streets, the Portland Police Bureau posted on social media for people to not walk or block the street as they may be subject to charges such as disorderly conduct and interfering with peace officers.

Hundreds of others crossed the Steel Bridge around 11 p.m. to the courthouse, meeting up with thousands of people that had already been tear-gassed by federal agents.

The fence surrounding the building had flowers and banners draped across as federal agents emerged from the courthouse to inspect it. They were met with fireworks shot over the fence.

Federal agents tossed canisters of tear gas at the crowd, while people ran toward the plumes, picked up some of the canisters and threw them back over the fence.

As some protesters attempted to cut the fence using power tools, streams of pepper spray were spewed at the crowd.

WATCH | Fireworks and  tear gas in Portland:

Protesters and federal agents clashed again into the early hours of Saturday outside a Portland, Ore., courthouse. 2:24

At the nearby Justice Center, images and words were projected onto the building including “Keep fighting. Keep pushing.”

During demonstrations the previous night federal agents repeatedly fired tear gas to break up rowdy protests that continued into the early morning Saturday. Authorities say six federal officers were injured and one person was arrested.

Demonstrations have happened in Oregon’s largest city nightly for two months since Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May. Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials say they are making the situation worse.


Demonstrators tore down a fence surrounding Portland’s federal courthouse building where U.S. agents have been stationed. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

There were demonstrations for police reform and against the increased presence of federal law enforcement in cities across the country Saturday. In Seattle, police declared a riot Saturday afternoon following large demonstrations and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear crowds. Authorities made more than 40 arrests said 21 officers suffered mostly minor injuries.

Chuck Lovell, the Portland police chief, released a video message on social media Saturday night calling for peace.

“Across the country people are committing violence, supposedly in support of Portland,” Lovell said. “If you want to support Portland then stop the violence, work for peace. Portland police officers and police facilities have been threatened.


Here, a protester stands in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland on Saturday. For 56 consecutive nights, protesters have faced off in often violent clashes with the Portland Police Bureau and, more recently, federal police. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Now more than ever, Portland police need your support. We want to be with you in the community and working on the real relationships that will create change. We want to get back to the critical issues that have been hijacked by people committing crimes under the cover of the crowds.”

Late Friday, a federal judge denied a request by Oregon’s attorney general to restrict the actions of federal police.

The Federal Protective Service had declared the gathering in Portland that began Friday evening an unlawful assembly. Harry Fones, a Homeland Security spokesperson, said at a news conference Saturday afternoon some people launched large fireworks, threw hard projectiles and used power tools to damage property.


Demonstrators gathered on Saturday night for another protest against racial inequality and police violence in Portland. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Craig Gabriel, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, said at the news conference that of the six federal officers who were injured, one suffered a concussion and another was taken to the hospital for burns.

He said one person was arrested for failing to comply with orders. That person was later released without charges, bringing the total number of people arrested on or near the courthouse property since early July to 60.

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CBC | World News

MLS returns to action after poignant moment of silence to protest racial injustice

Nearly 200 players took the field for an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence to protest racial injustice before Major League Soccer’s return to action Wednesday night.

Players wore black T-shirts, black gloves and black facemasks emblazoned with Black Lives Matter. The shirts had varying slogans that included Black And Proud, Silence Is Violence and Black All The Time.

The players walked toward midfield, raised their right arms one at a time and held the pose so long that some could be seen stretching fatigued muscles afterward.

It was a poignant moment that put two of the nation’s most prominent changes over the last four months — masks and movements — at the forefront of the sport’s return.

WATCH | Players observe 8 minute, 46-second moment of silence:

Before the MLS is Back Tournament got underway, members of the Black Players for Change took to the field in a joint protest to send a powerful message about social injustice. 6:13

The group was formerly called the Black Players Coalition of MLS but changed its name this week to Black Players for Change. Originally announced on Juneteenth, the group started in the wake of George Floyd’s death with the hope of combating systemic racism both in soccer and the players’ communities. The league and the players’ union endorsed the organization.

Several other players from Orlando City and Inter Miami took a knee near midfield during the demonstration. Orlando’s Nani scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time and held on for a 2-1 victory over expansion Miami.The two in-state teams delivered their own moment of silence by taking a knee along with the referee and the line judges just before the opening kick.

WATCH | Orlando wins 1st game of MLS is Back tournament:

Nani scored seven minutes into 2nd half stoppage time to help push Orlando City SC to a 2-1 win over Inter Miami in the MLS is Back Tournament. 1:17

The national anthem was not played before or after the demonstration. MLS previously said it would not be played because no fans were in attendance.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Prosecutors said that a police officer had his knee on the neck of Floyd for 7 minutes, 46 seconds — not the 8:46 that has become a symbol of police brutality.

MLS players had weeks to decide what to do prior to the MLS is Back tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.

Tournament underway with hiccups

The league’s teams are sequestered in resorts for the duration of the World Cup-style tournament, which began with a Group A match that was the first meeting between two Sunshine State teams.

FC Dallas withdrew Monday after 10 players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19. A day later, Nashville SC’s status was thrust into doubt with five confirmed positive tests.

Nashville was supposed to play Chicago in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday but it was postponed.

MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had each played two regular-season games.

The reboot had a considerably different feel — without fans and with plenty of concern even amid a safety bubble. Can 25 teams that include nearly 700 players plus coaches, trainers and other support staff do everything right for a month? And what’s the threshold for more positive tests?

The NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball surely have a close eye on what’s happening outside Orlando.

The NBA should get an up-close look. The league already has part of its bubble established at the ESPN venue. NBA team flags fly on every flagpole, and some areas have been sanitized and cordoned off for basketball’s return later this month.

Reyes leaves on stretcher

MLS is using three fields near the back of the complex, two of the ones the NFL used for Pro Bowl practices the last four years. The league mandated masks for everyone other than players. Coaches, support staff and media donned masks during the game. Miami star Rodolfo Pizarro, who wasn’t in the starting lineup, also wore one during warmups.

Miami’s Andres Reyes left the field on a stretcher early in the second half after a scary collision with Orlando’s Dom Dwyer. Replays appeared to show Dwyer hitting Reyes in the throat as they went for a 50-50 ball.

Reyes had trouble breathing as teammates and the referee called for help. Adding to the growing concern on the field, the emergency crew got hung up trying to gain access to him.

Security personnel struggled to open a gate, delaying the medical team’s response. It was slow enough that one of Reyes’ teammates, Juan Agudelo, ran across the field to help and ended up assisting in pulling the stretcher across the soggy grass.

Chris Mueller scored the equalizer for Orlando, getting a sliding toe on a perfect cross from Nani to the back post in the 70th minute.

Agudelo scored the first goal of MLS’ return, drilling a left-footer past Pedro Gallese to cap a play that started with two teammates on top of each other in the box.

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CBC | Soccer News

Players kneel for national anthem in NWSL’s return ‘to protest racial injustice’

Lynn Williams scored in stoppage time and the North Carolina Courage defeated the Portland Thorns 2-1 in the opening game of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament on Saturday in Utah.

The NWSL is the first professional team sport to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. The teams had opened pre-season training camps when the league shut down on March 12.

Players from both teams collectively took a knee during the national anthem and wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts in pre-game warmups to protest racial inequity.

“We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against black people and people of colour in America,” the Thorns and Courage said in a joint statement released before the game. “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 league said Friday that it would play the national anthem before the Challenge Cup games and that it would support the players in whatever they chose to do.

WATCH | NWSL players take a knee to protest racial injustice:

Players for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage took a knee during the national anthem Saturday when the National Women’s Soccer League opened the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah. 2:01

The month-long Challenge Cup opened Saturday with a pair of games at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman.

After a scoreless first half, Brazilian Debinha broke through for the Courage by tapping in a ball served up by former UCLA standout Hailie Mace. But the Thorns tied it minutes later when Simone Charley scored off a scramble in front of the North Carolina goal after Lindsey Horan’s shot rebounded off the crossbar.

Williams scored the go-ahead goal on a header off a cross from Samantha Mewis.

The eight teams taking part in the Challenge Cup are sequestered in Utah for the duration of the month-long tournament and must follow a strict protocol that includes frequent testing.

WATCH | Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé shines in Courage net:

N.C. Courage and Canadian national team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé’s great play eventually led to Lynn Williams’ game-winner, as the Courage beat the Portland Thorns 2-1 in the NWSL Challenge Cup Opener in Herriman, Utah. 2:19

But the tournament was rocked earlier this week when the Orlando Pride was forced to withdraw because of multiple positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff.

Megan Rapinoe, who plays for OL Reign but opted out of the Challenge Cup, was criticized when she knelt at a NWSL game and a pair of national team games in 2016.

She said she wanted to express solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the anthem to bring attention to racial inequality.

The Courage are the NWSL’s two-time defending champions and considered the favourites at the Challenge Cup. Last season they scored a league-record 54 goals.

In the previous meeting between the two teams last season, the Courage routed the Thorns 6-0, led by Williams with three goals.

Courage rookie Ally Watt was taken off the pitch on a stretcher after a non-contact injury in the second half. She was replaced by Mace, who assisted on the team’s first goal moments later.

There was also a moment of silence before the game as the league recognized the national outcry following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

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CBC | World News

How a teenage Canadian equestrian decided to speak out against racial inequality

Lauryn Gray wanted to spark conversation.

The 17-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native had seen an article fellow equestrian teenager Sophie Gochman, of New York, had written imploring “the insular community with a gross amount of wealth and white privilege” to speak out against racism.

Gray had also seen the response from renowned American trainer Missy Clark, who argued that “to presume minority communities have been purposely excommunicated from our world of horses is like saying equestrians are not allowed as participants in basketball.”

And so Gray, who refers to herself as a “Black and white mixed” rider, was inspired to say her peace.

WATCH | Gray on racial injustice still occurring in equestrian sports:

‘There’s still racial injustice that happens in our sport,’ says Lauryn Gray 4:39

“I think the main message that I was really trying to drive home is that we just need to start speaking about these things because so often stuff is ignored,” Gray told CBC Sports’ Jacqueline Doorey.

“People say, ‘I don’t feel comfortable’ or ‘I don’t know what to say, I’d rather just stay silent,’ but one of the main points I tried to make is if you’re staying silent, you’re doing more harm than good. You’re contributing to the oppression.”

The Canadian teen wrote an article about her experience as a person of colour in equestrian on Tuesday for The Chronicle of the Horse, a “horse news and equestrian lifestyle” publication. Gochman’s and Clark’s articles had been published there previously, too.

Gochman posted the first piece after seven days passed following George Floyd’s death without her hearing about it or the police brutality and racism issues it resurfaced being discussed at the stables.


Gray sits on her horse at a meet. (Submitted by Lauryn Gray)

Gray began her riding career eight years ago at Parish Ridge Stables in Burlington, Ont. She continues riding there to this day and says she has never experienced anything but acceptance at her barn.

“The hardest thing I think growing up was just looking around and not really seeing that many people that look like me,” Gray said. “No one ever judged me for the colour of my skin but I’d always wished that there was someone with curly hair, someone that looked like me that I could maybe look up to.”

Gray and her horse, Chelsea, have earned multiple awards riding together including the title of reserve champion from the Trillium Hunter/Jumper Championships in Ontario.

The Canadian said that if she and Gochman, a pair of 17-year-olds, could take a stand against racism, then those with larger platforms and bigger followings should be able to follow suit.

“You have a responsibility and an obligation to your fans to deliver this message, to speak about these issues because for me personally, if I see someone that I once looked up to and they’re not saying anything, it’s like why should I look up to them if they’re not willing to do anything for me? If they’re not willing to speak on tougher issues?,” Gray said.

Privilege in equestrian sports

Both Gray and Gochman make no secret that the equestrian community is predominantly white. Gochman acknowledges her white privilege, while Gray admits she is fortunate to be able to afford to train in the sport.

“I might not have white privilege, but I know that I do have privilege and I’m fortunate to be able to ride and we need to say something because otherwise we look like no one cares. Like our community doesn’t care,” Gray said.

The next step, both say, is for the community to recognize the systemic injustices that cause the racial inequity within equestrian and to make changes toward fixing that problem.

“I’m disgusted by your willful ignorance, and I refuse to accept anything but action. This country needs a revolution. This country needs authentic democracy. This country needs justice, and I’m demanding your help,” Gochman wrote in the address to her fellow riders.

Gray suggested a more community-based approach: “Whether it’s between two friends, before a professional and a fan, no matter what it is, we just need to start having the conversations. It all starts with a conversation because one individual can help to make a change whether they realize it or not.”

Gray also wrote that equestrians have a “moral obligation” to create a better environment for people of colour.

Equestrian Canada did not respond to a request for comment by CBC Sports.

Clark, meanwhile, pointed to the Equestrian AIDS Foundation created in the 1990s to show that the community does not discriminate against minorities.

The trio of opinions has ignited online fervour. Gray said hers and Gochman’s pieces generally received favourable reviews, while Clark’s was met with more pushback. It is clear the conversation about racism in equestrian has begun.

“I think that my article has sparked a change in the equestrian community and people are speaking out so I hope that continues on.”

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