Brian Lewis, president of the Trinidad & Tobago National Olympic Committee and CANOC, issued a challenge to sport and to football in particular to do more to combat discrimination in all its forms.
Speaking at the SIGA GRID Forum at Soccerex in Miami this week – GRID stands for Gender, Race, Inclusion and Diversity – Lewis (pictured) said “football is not doing enough, sport is not doing enough”.
“These are uncomfortable conversations but we must be willing to hold uncomfortable conversations and keep having them. In this region soccer is white, suburban – it is not as if Concacaf or FIFA do enough. And It is not just racism, it is discrimination in all its forms,” he continued.
“You cannot diminish the experience of people who are being marginalised. You can’t intimidate them into agreeing with those who wish to move away from uncomfortable conversations about discrimination, racism, sexism, ableism.
“We need action. Words have power, and if we want to talk about discrimination people have to be exceptional, because the playing field is not levelled. Oppression starts in offices, clubs and organisations….silence is compliance.”
Lewis then turned to panelists that included Jamil Northcutt, Senior Vice-President, Player and Competition Relations, Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing, and challenged them to do more, even if it meant putting them at risk in their work environments. “This is the only way to bring change,” he said.
The first SIGA GRID forum tackled a number of major issues around inclusion, discrimination and diversity and in all cases it was clear that more must be done and that words needed to be followed by action.
Matt McCann founder and CEO of Access Earth, said: “Diversity and inclusion are incredibly important, not only for 1 billion people in the world who have disabilities but as an opportunity for stadiums to become accessible champions within their own communities.”
McCann and Access Earth became SIGA’s newest member at the end of the session, stating an intention to work on inclusion issues.
Keith Jones, President, Soul’Touchin Experiences, Emmy Award Winning Music & Lyricist, said: “It is important to understand integrity is key; that Diversity, inclusion and gender equity movies society forward.”
In a video message, Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Inclusive Social Development, DESA, United Nations, said: “Sport and physical activity are key tools to promote resilience, inclusion, equity, and to leave no one behind. The UN shares your commitment to improve people’s lives, and achieve a better, more equitable, sustainable world.”