Diversity in sports more than about race

By Melissa Talbert September 08, 2020

Oftentimes, conversations about diversity in sports stop at race. There’s so much more to explore.

Don't get me wrong, discussions around race and diversity are important because there is more work to be done.

Just last Wednesday, TVJ's Prime Time sports featured international equestrian Lydia Heywood. Heywood, who is the daughter of a British mother and Jamaican father, does not look like most of her fellow competitors. Hence, she is pushing for more diversity in the sport.

Diversity in sports, however, isn’t only about race. Diversity covers a range of things including sexual orientation (yes, track star Caster Semenya is a symbol of diversity in sports) and age. Diversity would also mean accepting different sports. A diverse range of sports.

So, Heywood is onto something when she encourages prospective athletes and fans to accept non-traditional sports. In this case, equestrian.

Contributors to the gaming industry also want diversity. Before Jabari Brown decided to make his own game, he modified and animated characters. A video game modifier is a person who makes minor changes to another artist’s work. Jabari modified and animated characters because he wanted to see people who look like him. His modified black characters are called ‘cosplayers’. They have super speed, super strength; typical superpower stuff.

 Diversity is a superpower within itself. It gives a sense of worth and comfort through representation. When people identify with something, they’ll keep coming back. Jabari’s characters are influenced by Jamaican culture. His characters speak patois and the word ‘dark’ in his moniker ‘Japter Dark’ represents his dark brown complexion.

Jabari recently decided to make his own game but admits it will take many years to complete.

His mobile game will be a side scroller endless runner. A game where the player is always running. His other game will be more complex. The concept is an HD fighting game like Marvel vs Capcom. This means, it will be labour intensive and will definitely need funding.

 I get it, sprinting events spark joy and delight in Jamaicans. Our athletes give their all, excel, and have been doing so for many years. Just the same, I believe nontraditional sports can spark pride in us because anything Jamaica is a part of what makes us very proud. However, it will take truly accepting diversity for what is it for the island to be genuinely known for equestrian sports, esports, etc.

When diversity is grasped, non-traditional sports and industries can flourish. Prospective athletes and gamers will  see non-traditional sports as a plausible career choice.

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