Jody Vance: The COVID-stricken Vancouver Canucks are making headlines. The province they call home has become a pandemic hotspot. Sharing their stories could help reach tuned-out fans – and save lives.
As a longtime sportscaster, athletes, teams or leagues taking a stand on social justice issues is among my favourite stories to cover.
Using one’s fame, celebrity, status or influence to shine light on important initiatives or messages is a big hell yes for me.
We are seeing a movement toward more activism in sport. In just the last week there’s been a shift south of the border. First, the US Olympic committee announced its athletes will be allowed to raise fists at the starting line or on the podium, kneel during the National Anthem, to wear hats or face coverings with phrases including “Black Lives Matter,” “Trans Lives Matter,” “equality” and “respect.”
Last Friday, Major League Baseball announced they’re pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest a bill it says will suppress BIPOC voters.
It’s happened in Canada too. Last summer, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors put their commitment to the BLM movement at the core of their priority list in the return to play last summer.
Wouldn’t it be something if this list could grow with a move by BC’s highest profile major league team, the Vancouver Canucks?
The club has grabbed national and international headlines for the worst reasons, with 17 of 22 active players on the active roster on the COVID19 protocol list.
This is where we find today’s Middle.
Speak up. Share. The Canucks organization has an opportunity to educate fans who may have tuned out on the pandemic. The club could pull back the curtain on how, even with all of the National Hockey League protocols in place, this virus was able to infiltrate.
No, not all players on the protocol list have tested positive – which is also worth explaining. Share how being on that list pretty much shuts down their lives and scares their bubble as though they have it.
Mandatory self-isolating as a “close contact” is a reality for thousands of British Columbians, for whom hearing from players, coaches, staff, and families would be impactful.
It’s a scary time for these young guys and their families. Sure, players are multi-millionaire elite athletes, but they are also human. People just as vulnerable as anyone else once a test for COVID comes back positive. There are so many, too many, in this province who believe this won’t touch them.
That’s the missing message. An NHL Player who says “if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.”
Imagine the reach and impact this could have on young people who don’t or can’t watch press briefings. With a campaign to reinforce our generation’s greatest challenge, the Canucks have the power to literally save lives.
This need not be flashy. Messages recorded on an iPhone are in many ways more authentic than something more polished and produced – which isn’t possible in quarantine anyway.
Whether asymptomatic, or with full blown flu-like symptoms and fatigue, hearing the experience and worry involved with this disease would carry such weight. They could, if everyone involved was comfortable, share the impact on their personal lives: wives, kids, close contacts.
Given all the NHL’s protocols, these players and their families all likely had some sense of security. And it would seem, too many ordinary British Columbians have a misplaced sense of security. But the hard truth is that BC is now a COVID hot spot. The messaging from the Premier’s Office has largely been tuned out, drowned out by anger, frustration, and exhaustion.
All of that could change with sports stepping up in the name of educating and sparking life-saving conversations. The messenger matters.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.
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