Sept. 11, 2020

Discover how the Dinos are enhancing diversity in university athletics

They are not easy conversations, but they’re critical. As part of Alumni Month, you can Zoom in on this two-part series about diversity and inclusion in sport, with Part 1 happening Sept. 15

It’s still hard for Anton Bellot, BComm’15, to open up about it. After all, athletes are supposed to be tough. But even though the former Dinos football linebacker has relied heavily on the lessons he learned on the field, the racism he faces every day as a Black man would take a toll on anyone’s mind.

“We assume that athletes are super-tough and that nothing bothers them — and, in many ways, that’s true, but there are a lot of challenges off the field, and I’m excited to shine a light on them,” says Bellot, a 2015 graduate of the Haskayne School of Business who currently works as a senior manager of entrepreneurship at ATB Financial.

Bellot, pictured above, is one of five panellists who will be sharing their personal experiences in a Sept. 15 presentation on anti-Black racism in sport. The session is part of a new program called the Dinos Diversity Series, hosted by the athletic department as part of Alumni Month.

A second panel on Indigenous inclusivity within athletics follows on Sept. 29.

Both sessions will provide opportunities for Dinos athletes, both past and present, to reflect on the ways that they’ve seen the sporting community change, and to suggest avenues for the world of sports to become a more inclusive environment for every athlete, fan and community member. 

But this is only a starting point, says Ben Matchett, BComm’06, BA’06, the assistant athletic director for the Dinos. “This is a positive first step to start important conversations, but we don’t plan to end them with Alumni Month. These are ongoing discussions and we will be looking at ways to continue them.

“The events of this summer have brought a pretty significant spotlight to the issues of diversity, inclusion and systemic racism across society. A lot of it has been focused on the U.S., but we wanted to localize the conversation to how it relates to the Canadian context, university sports and sports in general.”

Freya Szmidt, a former member of the basketball and track and field teams and a 2020 graduate of the Faculty of Kinesiology, says she is looking forward to sharing how recent social movements brought together communities in ways she had never felt before.

Freya Szmidt

“I wish for the audience to build awareness so much that they can unpick their potential prejudices and shed light on things they may have never been exposed to,” says Szmidt, who will be moderating the panel. “If this increases allyship, that would be a wonderful result.”

For Sienna Prince-McPherson, a co-captain of the women’s soccer team currently studying education, these conversations are an important way to close the gap on who can participate and be provided with opportunity in the world of sports. 

“As an Indigenous student-athlete, I believe the opportunity to be a Dino and to have a voice that can be heard comes with the responsibility of speaking up —  especially during times like these — to inspire and support people in my community.”

Sienna Prince-McPherson

Meanwhile, Bellot hopes to impart two takeaways to the audience.

“No. 1 is to recognize racism when you see it. No. 2 is don’t be afraid to speak up about it. We’ve been too quiet for far too long and these things do happen, more so than we realize. In Canada, we may not face the same law-enforcement issues as they do in the States, but that doesn’t mean the impact of systemic racism isn’t any less devastating.”

Register for the Sept. 15 and Sept. 29 sessions, held over Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Recordings will be available after each event.

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