Black Manitoban athletes leading by example

Black History Month is an incredibly important time for the Black community. It is a time to reflect on the past and strive for a better future.

In a statement penned by Enny Odeleye, the University of Manitoba Black Students Union (UMBSU) articulated the importance of Black History Month to the Black community.

“February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on the stories, experiences and accomplishments of Canada’s Black community,” Odeleye wrote. “It is essential to recognize Black leaders and athletes’ achievements because it shows that greatness can come from Black people out of our province. It encourages Black youth to step up and chase their dreams. That they, too, can do it and break down barriers. It sheds light on the creativity, authenticity, work ethic and power that Black people hold.”

Ryan Reaves, Desiree Scottand Andrew Harris are all examples of Black athletes that have made history and continue to lead a legacy of Black excellence in Manitoba.

After Reaves had a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)injury derail his football career, it became apparent that hockey would be his sport of choice from there on out. Reaves was drafted 36th overall by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2002 Western Hockey League bantam draft, but ended up playing for the St. John’s-Ravenscourt School Eagles in the 2003-04 season. He then made the jump from high school hockey to the WHL.

Reaves starred for the Wheat Kings for three seasons, racking up 316 penalty minutes. He then played in the minors for four seasons, where he established himself as one of the toughest playersin all of professional hockey. After four seasons of solely minor-league hockey, Reaves joined the St. Louis Blues organization.

In the 2010-11 season, Reaves made the St. Louis Blues roster and has remained in the NHL ever since. His punishing checks and ability to drop the gloves have cemented him as the toughest player in the NHL. Now, he plays for the Vegas Golden Knights, a team that continues to be a force in its division and regular contender for the Stanley Cup.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Desiree Scott joined theUniversity of Manitoba in 2005,emerging as one of the top players in the country winning the Canada West rookie of the year that season. Scott would be named a Canada West all-starnumerous times in her four years with the Bisons and an All-Canadian in her final two years.

In 2010, Scott made her debut for the Canadian national team at the Cyprus Women’s Cup. She also played in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Scott was a regular midfielder for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics. She played an integral part in Canada’s bronze medal performance at the games, helping Canada’s Women’s soccer team earn their second Olympic soccer medal.

Scott has emerged as one of the top midfielders in the world. In 2016, she helped lead team Canada to another Olympic bronze medal.

Andrew Harris was a gifted athlete from a young age. After years of playing high school football, Harris was recruited to the play junior football for the Vancouver Island Raiders.With the Raiders, Harris captured three national titles and destroyed multiple provincial and national junior records. He also won a number of awards, including most outstanding junior football player in 2009.Harris joined the BC Lions practice roster later that year.

In 2011, Harris helped lead the Lions to a Grey Cup victory over his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Harris was named most outstanding Canadian for that game as well.

After seven seasons with Lions where he continued to rewrite the CFL record book, Harris returned to Manitoba signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In 2019, Harris became the first Canadian to be named the Grey Cup’s most valuable player and best Canadian after leading the Blue Bombers to the team’s first Grey Cup win since 1990. Harris signed a one-year extension with the blue and gold in 2021.

For these athletes, the work continues. All three continue to set an example for Black athletes across the province.

The UMBSU shares a similar stance. Black history continues to be important not only in February, but everyday beyond Feb. 28 as well.

“Black history is not just history for us because many of us are still experiencing the impacts of intergenerational trauma,” Odeleye wrote.“It is a time for us to teach people that it is a privilege for them to learn about our history instead of having to experience it and deal with it your whole life. It goes beyond a time for us to remember the past and fixate our time on the present and how we can fix the issues at hand and make tomorrow a better place for Black people. It is not a trend or a movement but rather a lifestyle that we all need to be living and making a conscious effort to change.”