Indigenous basketball players receive support after ban by Calgary refs
Members of the Kainai Basketball Association (KBA) are set to benefit from an outpouring of support and donations after its teams were unable to compete in Calgary when refs refused to call their games.
According to the association, four of its teams participated in a tournament in Calgary last week but select referees were unwilling to step on the court with the players following an unspecified dispute with a Kainai high school coach.
"It's just ridiculous," said Truman Soop, a KBA coach. "The discrimination and racism by the Calgary Basketball Officials Association to ban an entire native community, it just breaks my heart."
"I had to tell kids from ages eight to 15 years old that they can't play basketball in Calgary."
The teams were permitted to participate after alternate officials were located.
Kathleen Johnson was at the tournament and went out of her way to ensure the Kainai children felt welcome. "I was really concerned about the kind of tone that I was seeing there and whether or not the kids, and the families who were coming to Calgary, if they'd be aware that that's not the typical attitude for Calgary."
Johnson brought the Kainai teams ice cream and says the players were grateful for the gesture. "They all came over, one by one, and thanked me," recalled Johnson. "Every single one of them came and thanked me and I got high-fives and I got hugs."
Officials with the association say they plan to file a human rights complaint against the Calgary Basketball Officials Association as they await an apology and the lifting of the ban of its teams.
TSN basketball analyst Leo Rautins, who played in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, condemns the actions of the referees.
"What are you telling these kids that are eight years old when you're already being judged and limited by the colour of your skin?" asked Rautins in an interview with CTV Calgary. "It makes no sense. It's horrible and it just disgusts me."
A GoFundMe campaign to help the KBA teams compete at an upcoming tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada has already surpassed its goal of $7,000 with donations coming in from across Canada.
With files from CTV's Jordan Kanygin