Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee, delivered a powerful and stinging address on day one of the first-ever Sports Integrity Week (SIW) being hosted online by the Sports Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA), the world’s largest independent integrity organisation.

on Monday, the Chair of SIGA Task Force of Race, Gender, Diversity and Inclusion spoke openly on these four topics and was pointed and passionate in his comments.

"In the world of international sport, sports leaders know the truth, see the truth but still believe the lies and deny the reality of racism, sexism," said Lewis, who is also the president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC).

"The principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights. Discrimination persists against religion, ethnic minorities, persons of African descent, older persons, women and persons with disabilities."

According to Lewis, racism remains the most common form of discrimination, citing an observation by 'Kick It Out' (football's equality and inclusion organisation) that it has risen and is worse now than it was five years ago.

Kick It Out was established as a campaign with the brand name 'Let's Kick Racism Out of Football' in 1993 and as an organisation in 1997. The organisation works within the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change.

"International sport is run by white, male decision-makers who have never been racially abused. They have no idea what being racially abused feels like. Or what being discriminated feels like, it doesn't affect them," simply said Lewis, who posed the question. "Can we trust world sports leaders who talk the talk?

"They say the politically right things when they are in public but behind the scenes, the actions they take don't reflect the principles of equality and non-discrimination

"Can we trust world sports leaders and decision-makers to walk, the talk?"

When the Task Force which Lewis heads was established in July, the members posed these tough questions to better be able to forge meaningful reform and promote the highest standards on race, gender, diversity and inclusion.

"The recommendations of the SIGA Task Force provide a framework and yardstick to monitor and evaluate to hold the mirror up," said Lewis. "Every member of the Taskforce had to themselves look into the mirror and do some deep soul searching as we all carry unconscious bias and prejudice of some sort or the other.

"Our vision must be aspirational to hearts and minds."

The Task Force includes Affy Sheikh, Head of Starlizard Integrity Services and SIGA Member; Angela Melo, SIGA Council Member; Densign White, CEO of International Mixed Martial Arts (IMMAF) and Member of the SIGA Council; Paul Elliot, Member of The FA Inclusion Advisory Board, former professional football play; Ju’Riese Colon, Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Center for SafeSport; Katie Simmonds, General Counsel & Senior Director, Global Partnerships, SIGA; Karin Korb, Wheelchair Tennis, 2-time Paralympian and 10-time member of USA World Team & SIGA Champion; Stacey Copeland, First British Woman to win the Commonwealth Title for Boxing and SIGA Champion; and Pavel Klymenko, Head of Policy at FARE Network (Football Against Racism in Europe).

Lewis was one of 12 straight-talking, inspirational and passionate speakers from around the world, delivering on day one of the Sport Integrity Week, which continues today and will run until Friday (September 11).

Day one opened with SIGA chairman Franco Frattini making a call to action urging all stakeholders to be uncompromising in the

battle against Integrity threats. SIGA CEO Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros extended this powerful messaging by not only stressing that stakeholders must “stand united and strong in the resolve to overcome this crisis. Sport must feel the passion – the catalyst of socio-economic progression. There is no second chance. Sport owns the problems but it must also own the solutions” but by also providing a platform for them to stand up and be counted.

In another significant leap towards inclusivity, the opening day of saw the launch of the first digital workshop for the SIGA Global Mentorship Programme on Female Leadership in Sport.

There was also a wealth of engaging content, fireside chats and impactful webinars from high profile speakers and sports legends and inspirational figures from a range of experience bases, organisations and perspectives including two-time Olympic gold medallist Edwin Moses, Renee Montgomery, two-time WNBA Champion (2015, 2017), Jessica Berman, Deputy Commissioner & Executive vice president, National Lacrosse League, Jon Duncan vice president, Enforcement, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to name a few.

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Welcome to Sport Integrity Week
ONE WEEK TO GO!
PRELIMINARY EVENT GUIDE OUT!
SPORT INTEGRITY AROUND THE WORLD
OVER 60 DIGITAL EVENTS, OVER 100 SPEAKERS FROM ALL FIVE CONTINENTS.

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The Sport Integrity Week™ is the world’s premium digital conference and thought leadership dynamo for sport integrity leaders and all those who want to see the industry being governed and operated under the highest integrity standards.

SIGA, has released the preliminary Master Programme for its first Sport Integrity Week, taking place 7 to 11 of September 2020.

With over sixty premium digital events, over one working week, across all continents, involving over one hundred high-level speakers and leading organisations from all sides of the sporting industry and integrity community, the Sport Integrity Week promises to catapult the industry into a new era of good governance, transparency and accountability.

Download the preliminary Sport Integrity Week Event Guide to see the hottest topics and speakers on the World Stage and the five continental stages: Stage Asia; Stage Africa; Stage Oceania; Stage Americas; and Stage Europe.

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President Paula-Mae Weekes is disgusted and dismayed by the level of racism displayed by supporters of both the government and opposition in the lead-up to the August 10 general election and its immediate aftermath.

The President spoke out on the issue for the first time in her Independence Day message...

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NGC recently hosted an online career and life skills development symposium for athletes from its youth elite programme (YEP). The programme was launched in 2017 by NGC, in partnership with the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA).

In a press reelase, NGC said even amidst the covid19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing, the company has "made it a mandate to continue developing our CSR partners and finding innovative ways to implement planned programmes."

YEP focuses on social media etiquette, mental health and career guidance. It was intended to build the capacity of talented young athletes beyond their track and field careers and further develop them into well-rounded, contributing members of society.

The programme facilitates the holistic development of young track and field athletes between the ages of 14 and 20, who have been identified as having "podium-potential" by 2024. It aims to have a cadre of athletes who will be prepared physically, emotionally, socially and technically to improve their confidence and performance in the sport.

The August 18 symposium exposed the athletes to the tenets of problem solving, accountability for their actions, collaboration, analytical thinking, diversity and self-awareness. They were urged to stay focused despite challenges being faced globally in light of the ongoing effects of the covid19 pandemic.

According to NGC manager, Corporate Communications Lisa Burkett, “This online symposium comes at a time when these athletes would have ideally been wrapping up participation in local track and field activities in their lead up to regional and international finals. The entire world is still finding its footing as we all aim to exist in our new normal. My advice to them will be to stay in shape, keep focused, do not give up hope, and know that your time will soon come.”

Ian Carter, co-ordinator of the NGC NAAATT YEP at the NAAA added, “The session was excellent and the presenters were great and quite engaging, so much so that I found myself also practising my social media etiquette following the symposium. The athletes were quite engaged and seemed to have enjoyed the session immensely.”

NGC said it remains committed to developing the next generation of high-performing athletes through the NGC NAAATT YEP.

Written by Cherisse Moe 

With more and more young athletes falling victim to crime and criminal activity, Brian Lewis, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, (TTOC), is calling for the two-year-old TTOC programme #Generationnextchampion to be taken more seriously as it aims to provide much needed support and resources for troubled youth, especially those living in at risk and rural communities, who may see no way out of their current circumstances. 

Just this month, two promising athletes - basketball star, Shawn Lawrence 30, and footballer Nathan Julien, 28, were shot and killed in Maloney, in two separate incidents.

Lawrence, a father of two daughters, was described by his teammates as one of the country’s most promising ballers who had the potential to play professionally, while Julien, a Prison Service FC forward, was the Trinidad and Tobago Super League’s top goalscorer in 2019 and an aspiring Prison Officer.

Lewis explains that the initiative can save many of our nation's athletes from becoming a statistic or from choosing to follow a destructive path.

What prompted you to establish the Generation Next Champion programme?

A desire to use sport and Olympism to promote mutual respect and tolerance. Sport teaches important social and interpersonal skills which can be effective tools in keeping youth away from crime.  

And to also identify talent and potential for Team TTO #10golds24 programme with a particular focus on at risk communities and rural communities. There is a perception of neglect, disenfranchisement and disengagement among at risk and rural communities about national sport organisations, an anti establishment attitude. Sport can make a powerful and positive impact and difference. I believe and know that. And it's important for the TTOC to have sustainable programmes that engage those who need it most.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges sport as an important enabler of sustainable development. This is at the United Nations and there is a commitment to attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by the Government and Countries that are signatories to the United Nations Charter. I am unwavering in my belief that sport is a key driver of sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago. TTOC programmes such as #generationNextChampion, #futureisfemale #10golds24 #cyg2021 #trinbago2021 #sportindustrytt #replacegunswithmedals #getmovingtto #activeTTO are effective tools that will make a positive difference with youth and young people. 

What kind of feedback has the programme received thus far since ?

The programme is targeted to youths from at risk and rural communities. We have done a pilot project in Moruga and the feedback was awesome. We also attempted a programme in Chaguanas that unfortunately didn't progress as I would have envisaged. But it is also about learning from failures and adapting.

The TTOC has since reached out to support a boxing programme in Basilion Street and Beetham Gardens and we are interested in supporting another initiative up on the North Coast. We have worked with the Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association president Sonja Johnson to establish a chess programme in the Maximum Security Prison.

How important is it for the TTOC to promote sport as a positive alternative to crime and delinquency, especially for disenfranchised youth?

It's the essence of what the Olympic Movement is supposed to be about - Educating youth and young people through sport and investing in them. In the modern world, sport while not being a panacea, has benefits - health wise, socially, economically. Trinidad and Tobago is doing youth and young people an injustice by an ongoing attitude that goes back to colonialism - that sport is solely leisure - a hobby , recreation , a mere pastime.

When you first conceptualised the project back in 2018, you initially called it Replace Guns with Medals, why did you decide to rebrand it?

I was told that in at risk communities in particular, #replacegunswithmedals may be a barrier to the programme's acceptance. The programme is intended to be inclusive so if there is a view that the name is problematic it is wise to change it. If #generationnextchampion allows those who it can most benefit to freely participate, then, so be it.

How can local sport bodies better serve our athletes during this unprecedented time? 

By encouraging their stakeholders to stay safe, stay healthy and obey all public health authority guidelines. The harsh reality is most national sport bodies are in a financial bind.  It will take innovation, creativity and courage to overcome the covid-19 pandemic challenge. The sport industry has to engender unwavering determination and an indomitable will to not just survive but to eventually thrive. 

For the country to move forward from covid-19, sport and physical activity will be a key tool socially, economically and health wise. The social strength of sport is a key tool in tackling the economic and health crisis caused by the pandemic. 

There are key policy areas where sport and physical activity can positively contribute to rebuilding Trinidad and Tobago’s society during and after the crisis. An attitude of hope is important to keep the nation's sportsmen and women inspired and  motivated to press on. No wind blows in favour of a ship without a destination. If we don't have a goal we are a ship without a rudder.

What advice do you have for athletes who may be feeling the effects of the global pandemic which has put an indefinite pause to their careers/ livelihoods? 

Health is wealth. Focus on your controllables. Focus on your hopes, dreams and goals and cherish them. Believe in yourself, that you will overcome the covid-19 challenges. Where there is no vision the people perish, says the book of Proverbs 29:18. 

 

Cherisse Moe
Senior Freelance Journalist

TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis stands in solidarity with players of the Milwaukee Bucks who took a fearless decision to boycott Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic in protest of Jacob Blake’s shooting by police officers in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Read more: TTOC’s Lewis supports Bucks’ NBA playoff game boycott