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Readers of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 might have been unsettled by the appearance this week of Canadian Football League coaches and players sporting T-shirts that declared Diversity Is Strength. Apparently, the CFL has adopted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s catch-all immigration slogan to celebrate the varied races, ethnicities and languages spoken by the players, officials and administrators of the league.
The back of the shirt has the names of famous CFL stars of different backgrounds. Sounds nice in those terms. This isn’t at all about being political, it’s just who we are and really worthy of celebration, said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
But the league then admitted it was political after all – the CFL says it sped up the distribution of the shirts after the Charlottesville, Va., riots where Ku Klux Klan/neo-Nazi supporters clashed with alt-left thugs. The blunt-force intrusion of Trudeau’s partisan position seems very political for those who think sport should be above party sloganeering.
If it has a diversity message, the CFL needed something other than Trudeau’s partisan phrase to advertise it. That’s not all. In adopting Trudeau’s phrasing, the CFL endorsed a minority position in the country. A 2017 poll showed 46 per cent of respondents disagreed with Trudeau’s immigration fetish being imposed on them – versus 37 per cent who agreed with him.
We’ve seen the incursion of social issues into sport in the past decade. Leagues have had players wear pink to support breast-cancer research. Soccer has had badges demanding No To Racism for a while. Teams have also taken to wearing khaki or camouflage gear to honour the military.
But pro athletes wearing the political slogans of a government – then denying the political nature of the campaign – seems a whole new frontier. Imagine National Football League clubs wearing Make America Great Again shirts or Drain The Swamp windbreakers. Then saying it’s just a coincidence? Unthinkable.
In what-me-worry Canada, the Diversity Is Strength campaign doesn’t seem to have bothered many in the lapdog media. Oh, c’mon, it’s just a slogan. What harm could it do? Wake me up when the shirts read Balance The Budget.
Frankly, this whole attempt to appear relevant is a little creepy. In 1984, Newspeak was a reordering of the language to support the ruling elites of Orwell’s invented society in Oceania. There were cockeyed phrases such as Freedom Is Slavery. War Is Peace. Ignorance Is Strength. And, of course, Big Brother Is Watching.
Orwell explained that Newspeak is a language characterized by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning. Diversity Is Strength certainly makes it sound like you’re just adding a few groovy new restaurants – when in fact it’s an endorsement of changing the very underlying values of a society.
The CFL’s benign endorsement of Liberal dogma is a stark contrast to the current brouhaha about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Actually, Kaepernick (who was raised by white adoptive parents) is a former NFL player at the moment. Famous for sitting out the national anthem when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick is having trouble finding a new sideline on which to exercise his political franchise about Black Lives Matter. While Kaepernick is not New England Patriots’ star Tom Brady, he might help some team in the proper offence. Several NFL teams with injuries at the position have toyed with signing him.
But when broached about Kaepernick’s attitudes about Black Lives Matter and police oppression, most season ticket holders indicated they were just not that into him as the symbol of their favourite club. Thus, no owner as yet wants to tacitly endorse Kaepernick’s perceptions that America is a racist cauldron.
As with everything in contemporary America, Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is being branded as racist. But when it comes to using the sideline for the political purposes of the ruling party, the NFL owners want no distractions from the product.
The CFL? Hey, that’s a real pretty Canada 150 logo the Trudeau government let you put on your helmets.
Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin is the host of podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. His career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster.
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