I see, in Trinidad and Tobago, the discrimination against foreign-born athletes is alive and kicking.
Full disclosure: I was born in the UK and represented T&T with all of my pride. I also have more than a passing interest in gymnastics. So I have followed the personalities, issues and discussion around Trinidad and Tobago gymnastics very closely.
My second daughter, Khazia, was also born outside of T&T and, at one point, she also considered representing the “Red, Black and White” but for an elbow injury which required surgery.
I have no side in the latest wrangling involving Thema Williams and Marisa Dick. They are both exceptionally talented, hard-working gymnasts and admirable young women. The recent furore surrounding them both has highlighted some issues that seem to be thriving in our culture, which I find alarming.
This story only serves as a backdrop to a much wider issue. One that I have been subjected to and which my kids may have to endure—and so is of major concern to me, hence my writing.
Firstly, the gymnastics issue.
I’m not pointing fingers, apportioning blame or accusing either of the gymnasts or their teams for the apparent tit-for-tat leaking of photos. Photos that were totally inoffensive in my opinion.
I currently work for ESPN, a Disney-owned company. Every year, ESPN Magazine put out the “Body Issue”, where dozens of fully naked athletes—women from basketball player Britney Griner to auto racing driver Danika Patrick—pose showing their physiques.
I am yet to see an uproar about that, either on these pages or elsewhere. And I couldn’t help but wonder if “Georgette Heinz”, who wrote that initial email complaining of Thema’s Instagram post, will also stop her daughter from watching Disney movies, or playing with her Snow White doll in response to ESPN Magazine’s Body publication.
Or whether “Kamara Heinz” will follow suit.
If not, then her hypocrisy is about the only thing worthy of the venom that followed Wired868’s articles on the matter.
Further, Ms Melissa Grant, while I agree with most of what you said in your email in defense of Thema, please don’t make assumptions on athletes’ funding about who gets what or when. The truth may surprise you.
That aside, more importantly, as it is being discussed and commented on, please remember that you are talking about two young women who are both trying to find their way in an increasingly confusing world.
They are at an age where they are both discovering their sexuality, recognising the strength of their shared heritage, and trying to do so in a world in which women of every colour are asserting their equality.
You are discussing two young women who have both committed countless hours to gymnastics. You are discussing two young women whose only ‘crime’ is to harbour ambition of representing Trinidad and Tobago in their sport of choice.
Some of the discourse and rhetoric used in the comments section right here on Wired868 in discussing this top were enough to make Donald Trump blush—totally lacking of respect and compassion.
As a parent with a daughter who very well may have been the subject of such diatribe, it was hard to read.
Still, I thought it was important that my 17 year old gymnast daughter read the article. Her response was profound in its maturity: “What people don’t seem to get is that gymnastics is a team sport.”
That’s an issue for the TTGF and TTOC to address.
And now to the wider issue at hand. My wife and I are both from Trinidad. We have done everything in our parental powers to make sure our children fully understood and appreciated their “Trinbagonian roots.”
Though none of them were born there, we see them all as ‘parent-displaced Trinis’, and have tried to get them to see themselves as such.
It can sometimes be confusing to a young mind, but we know that they’ll appreciate it later in life. This confusion sometimes manifests itself in different ways. But as Trini parents we remain committed in the strength and value of our heritage.
Nothing would have brought me more pride than to see one of my children representing T&T. Nothing.
I’m not alone in feeling this way. Our national teams are increasingly represented by foreign born athletes, with an honour that echoes their parents’ own pride in our country.
From David Rudder’s son, Adam, to my former teammate Jerron Nixon’s son, Jerron Jr. From Leroy De Leon’s son, Nick—who recently indicated his willingness to represent T&T—to 2014 Women’s Player of the Year Arin King.
So to see the way our young athletes are treated, labelled and discriminated against by their own, our own, makes me wonder about a bigger picture of national identity and pride.
I also cannot help but feel it is reflective of some of the wider issues that our country faces today.
So please, while you chastise our young and aspiring, understand that these young boys and girls, men and women—whether born in Trinidad and Tobago or outside of our shores—have as much right to be proud of who they are as any of us. And many times make way better citizens that we often are.
Editor’s Note: Story updated by Shaka Hislop to reference other overseas-born Trinidad and Tobago players.