After the terrible events unfolded in Charlottesville last weekend, with white supremacists marching in the Virginia city shouting racist and bigoted epithets, politicians and celebrities alike made public statements denouncing the actions.
But the CFL — yes, the Canadian Football League — decided to go even bigger, and launch an entire campaign.
On Sunday, the league announced its "Diversity is our Strength" launch at the British Columbia Lions vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders game, with players wearing shirts emblazoned with the slogan, along with the names of 32 ethnically and racially diverse players on the back.
Granted, the shirts (which are for sale at the CFL Shop) was something that had already been in the works, but the head honchos decided to move up the date after they saw what was happening in Charlottesville.
A statement on the CFL site noted:
The shirts were originally produced for a fall launch as part of the CFL and CFL Alumni Association's ongoing celebration of Canada 150. After witnessing what transpired in Virginia, the league, along with both the Riders and Lions as well as the CFLAA decided to expedite their release and wear them today; not that this league and this country are perfect, but that we stand against hate and bigotry and we stand for diversity and inclusion.
"It really intersects beautifully with who we are as a nation," commissioner Randy Ambrosie told the Star. "It just seemed like the perfect moment to remind everybody about the power of diversity and how much it has done to make our game great and our country great."
It's also particularly relevant, as many of the CFL's players are actually American, and well aware of the issues facing down their country. And while, as the statement noted, Canada is far from perfect, the league has always been a leader when it comes to diversity, known for having hired black players when teams in America would not.
CFL commissioner from 2015 to 2017 Jeffrey Orridge, for example, was the first black man to head a major professional sports league in North America.
"I think my appointment ... as commissioner of the CFL is just the course of history of progressiveness of ethnic and gender diversity in Canada," he told The Undefeated. "It speaks of a long history and heritage of being inclusive of a diversity of talent."
And keeping with that idea of diversity, the league is making sure to offer those shirts for sale to both men and women (even if the latter product had to be requested).
Proceeds from the shirts will be going to the CFL Alumni Association and Purlolator Tackle Hunger, perhaps not the first choices of organizations for this particular moment in time, but worthy charities nonetheless.
For the league, they see the campaign as a way to honour their history and show how they're growing.
"It's a positive way of framing an argument that can sometimes be negative," Ambrosie told ESPN. "It's a reminder of who we are, and it seems to have taken on some additional value [based on recent events], and I guess we can say we're awfully proud of that."
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