Manitoba athletes talk frankly about racism in sport in new video aimed at combatting discrimination

Najma Osman has been called the N-word twice while playing sports. 

She’s also had her hijab pulled off in public, but the 19-year-old felt it came off the same as other racist encounters she’s had on the pitch and the basketball court.

Osman, who is attending Brandon University, is one of several local athletes and other people in sports sharing emotional stories about how racism affected them on and off the field in a new video released Tuesday aimed at tackling the issue.

“It comes from everyone. You can even have your teammates be racist to you. You can have your own coach be racist to you. You can have other coaches be racist to you, the referee, parents …

“They don’t want you to be better than them,” Osman told CBC News.

Initially, she did not want to participate in the making of the video, but Osman received encouragement from a coach.

“I learned that just talking about your experience might help motivate other people who have the same abilities as you but don’t have the resources or the confidence to do what you do,” she said.

Andrew Jean-Baptiste from Winnipeg Valour FC is one of more than a dozen current and former athletes featured in a new video created to educate people about racism in sport. (Anti Racism in Sport WPG/YouTube)

The video, produced by the Anti-Racism in Sport Campaign, features a range of professional and university athletes, including Andrew Jean-Baptiste from Winnipeg Valour FC and retired Winnipeg Blue Bomber Ibrahim (Obby) Khan. 

In one of the first stories in the video, Jean-Baptiste talks about an incident in which spectators in the stands started shouting the N-word at him and his teammates while they were on the field. 

Gode Katembo, who plays soccer for Canadian Mennonite University, talks about a troubling comment from one of his coaches and how it impacted him. 

“I didn’t even know who to go to, so I remember walking off the field — it was ninetieth minute. I was tearing up just crying because I couldn’t express myself,” he says in the video. 

Watch the video below:


In an interview with CBC News, Katembo said he’s glad people are talking about the issue now because, in the past, athletes didn’t have an outlet. 

“Back then, there was nobody talking about it, even though racism did exist,” he said. 

Katembo is also the founder of the Manitoba Africa Cup of Nations soccer league, and coaches young players. He says sometimes they don’t even know how to express themselves when they experience racism, especially if English is their second language. 

“Some of them, they wouldn’t even know what to tell the refs because they didn’t speak English,” he said. 

“And sometimes the referees will be harsh on them without them understanding what … caused or what led to the frustration of that player.”

Gode Katembo shared a story about how he was moved to tears during an incident at a soccer game. (YouTube/Anti Racism in Sport WPG)

Keagan Gaywish and his Minnedosa Chancellors were playing against the Swan Valley Tigers in Swan River on Oct. 31 when racist comments were hurled at him from the stands.

After watching the video, the 16-year-old from Rolling River First Nation said he was surprised to know so many other athletes in Manitoba have dealt with what he experienced during a Westman High School Hockey League game.

“It made me realize how much bigger racism and stuff is. It’s just not in sports, like all over the place,” Gaywish said.

He’s hopeful that the video continues to circulate and make an impression on anyone who has a tendency to utter racial remarks, even if in a sports setting.

“I think the video is real[ly] helpful actually. I think it’s going to make people think about what they say before they actually say that stuff,” Gaywish said.

Keagan Gaywish, 16, says racial slurs were hurled at him during a game in Swan River on Oct. 31. (Courtesy Roger Brightnose)

The Anti-Racism in Sport Campaign was launched in April to educate people about the impact of racism in sport, and find ways to stop it. 

Daria Jorquera Palmer, a consultant for the campaign, says she hopes the stories in the video resonate with people and inspire them to act. 

“Racism is essentially an act of violence against someone, and I think the sooner that everyone acknowledges that, they’re going to be more likely to address it.”

Osman hopes the campaign makes a monumental impact in the sporting community.

“We don’t want anyone losing their passion for sport just because they’ve encountered rude comments or like racist comments in the field,” she said. “So we should move a step forward toward stopping racism in the field, outside the field.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.