Nunavut Post

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Is winning an award for a Black athlete truly an honor?

lou marsh

Key Takeaways:

  • A developing chorus of voices calls for the annual award to be given to Canada’s top athlete to be renamed.

Leading contenders include Andre De Grasse, who set a national record to win gold in the 200m at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and bronze medals in the 100m and 4×100 relay.

Damian Warner, who won his first Olympic decathlon gold medal in Tokyo, could also take home the trophy. He began the competition with a 10.12-second 100m run. The fastest in Olympic decathlon history and finished with a 4:31 in the 1,500m, an endurance feat that should be impossible for someone with Warner’s raw speed. He’s a Chevrolet with the speed of a Corvette and the fuel economy.

And then there’s Alphonso Davies, who won the award with NFLer Laurent Duvernay-Tardif last year and is still the best player on a Canadian soccer team currently leading CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

It’s understandable to wonder how Marsh, the longtime sports editor of the Toronto Star, would react if the trophy bearing his name ended up in the hands of a Black person.

Black athlete; Image from Yahoo News Canada

Marsh had a history of scattering his copy with racist comments, in addition to his jobs as a journalist and all-purpose referee hockey, boxing, and wrestling. Some of it was standard, early-twentieth-century bigotry that didn’t sound offensive to modern ears in a less diverse city than it is now.

When Canadian sportswriters first began voting on the award, named in honor of Marsh, his race record didn’t matter. But it does these days. Over the previous year, a rising chorus of voices has called for the renaming of the trophy presented to Canada’s top athletes.

Add mine to the list.

Not because I want to hammer a nail into what Aaron Rodgers might call Marsh’s “cancel culture coffin,” or because I believe he deserves to be erased from history. Marsh was a towering figure on the Toronto sports scene. There is no way to change that reality, and there is no reason to. He’ll be remembered in textbooks and archives, as well as on Boxrec, where you can view his entire 2-decade career as a boxing referee.

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