The Toronto Raptors recognize that it’s not enough to simply not be racist. They are actively working as antiracists.
There is no doubt that lately, discrimination and social justice have become a greater public focus than they have been in decades. Protests across America have helped bring injustices to light. Systematic racism is not a new issue but the Toronto Raptors have taken steps to ensure that their organization does not work within that system.
To help them in this effort, the Raptors promoted John Wiggins from the Raptors 905 Vice-President of Operations to a new and important role with the big club. His business card now reads “Vice-President, Organizational Culture and Inclusion”.
In its official release, the team explained that “Wiggins will lead a group drawn from all parts of the organization to address social injustice, inclusion, equity and political reform. He will consider both internal matters – such as how we build a team culture that addresses social injustice, inclusion, equity, and political reform – and will lead our external outreach.”
In an interview with TSN’s Kayla Grey he explained that he must focus on what the Raptors stand for as an organization and that the team culture “should emulate what [they] stand for.” His role won’t just be focused on the team. “With the inclusion part,” he began to tell Grey, “that not only speaks to everyone in our organization but it also speaks to how we include everyone in the community in what we’re doing. The Raptors have a great platform to invoke some positive change and that’s what we want to do.”
Wiggins is prepared to lead the Raptors in tackling very difficult work in the field of equity. He himself named some of his goals as working to dismantle systematic corporate prejudice and bias, the need for greater diversity in the education system, and building relations with police forces.
In an interview Wiggins did with NBA TV Canada, he told Savanna Hamilton that the building of culture for the organization will include “how we approach indigenous rights, LGBTQ, diversity in our office, [and] inclusion in our staff.” He hopes to “implement something that is going to have a lasting effect.”
Wiggins went on to explain that “it is going to create a competitive advantage. If our staff and our players and our coaches feel like they’re in a culture that they can thrive in then we’re going to get the maximum optimal performance from all of them.”
The Raptors have already taken steps to show that they are using their platform for “antiracism”, a term that Dr. Ibram X. Kendi defines as taking action to combat racism. The team has already very clearly shown solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
The words “Black Lives Matter” is currently emblazoned on the team bus in Orlando. The organization has also been using the hashtag of the same name to bring eyes to the important work being done.
Being a leader here is important as real change is needed. Time will tell what exactly the Raptors and Wiggins will accomplish but with the actions they’ve already taken, their message is clear. For those who haven’t yet begun the heavy lifting required to improve equity and inclusivity, hopefully, the Raptors can also act as an inspiration to other businesses and individuals to get involved in some manner.
We often ask our athletes to be role models. This year, the Raptors are proving that they are ones.
For those just starting their antiracism journeys, an excellent starting point is self-educating. There are many great texts that explain the long history of discrimination in Canada and how it continues to this day.