A jersey patch has created controversy within Chilliwack FC.
Members of CFC’s women’s premier team say the youth soccer club has punished them for wearing an LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC symbol on their uniform.
LGBTQI2S+ is a term that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, and two-spirit and BIPOC stands for black, Indigenous and people of colour.
The team’s players wanted to show support for marginalized, underrepresented groups and met with the CFC board to present the idea. According to Brandon Lupton, a team supporter and partner to one of the players, the club expressed concern that the suggested patch could be negatively received and suggested that “Chilliwack isn’t ready.”
CFC chairperson Andrea Laycock said the conversation was more nuanced than that.
She said that while the board expressed support for the concepts of inclusivity and diversity, they felt a CFC jersey wasn’t the right place to make a political statement.
CFC’s adult liasion, Richard Tagle, said that following the initial meeting, his daughter Megan Tagle and three players from the women’s team worked to come up with an alternative. They produced three words, ‘Respect for ALL,’ which could be used on jerseys, used as a #hashtag on Twitter, and utilized in other ways.
“Three players had a long discussion with Megan and I,” Tagle said. “After that meeting, I met with the three plus the captain of the Div 1 team to discuss the proposal. The five of us came to an agreement to begin with “Respect for ALL” on the jersey, and the three would begin an educational video program on our website and social media to take steps to move towards an symbol to be placed on the jersey.
“At no time were we in disagreement with a symbol, but solely on the speed at which we would proceed. Again, all five were in agreement and I took that back to the board for approval.”
Laycock thought it was a “good first step,” and CFC planned to have the words on 1,200 jerseys in the association.
They still do.
But in the end the women’s players weren’t satisfied and didn’t think the alternative went as far as they wanted. They opted to wear their preferred option on the sleeve of their jerseys.
That decision had immediate consequences.
“After just one game, complaints from a bystander made their way to the chairperson of Chilliwack FC (Andrea Laycock),” Lupton explained. “Forty eight hours after the team’s first game, they received an email stating that the board requested a meeting with them to discuss disciplinary action for the embellishment of the uniform.”
A few days after the meeting, Lupton said three players received a two-game suspension and a warning of further discipline (longer suspension, or revoking of membership) if the misconduct continued.
The players appealed the ruling on the grounds of unfair and excessive disciplinary action, offering to accept a one game suspension.
Their appeal was denied.
Laycock said the players would have run afoul of the board putting anything on their jerseys, and the two-game suspension was upheld because their attempt to circumvent the wishes of the CFC board was “deliberate and premeditated.”
She said nothing would have been done if the patch had appeared on hoodies or track pants or shoes.
“But our policy is pretty clear that nothing goes on the jerseys without board approval,” she said. “We are open to changing that, but it has to fall in line with our policies and our mandate of having kids on the field playing soccer. It’s not that the board doesn’t support the idea of having a patch or a flag, but we have to be mindful of how we approach it and respect the community.
“It’s not incumbent on the executive to impose our political and personal beliefs on the membership. We have to be mindful of everybody’s needs.”
Tagle said CFC had no issue with the symbol itself, beyond its presence on the jerseys.
“The symbol could have been advertising for Chilliwack Ford or a cross or anything and we would have had the same issue,” he noted. “What is placed on the jersey, including colours, is solely the board’s decision. This is to prevent symbols of hate, religion, adverts, etc. being placed on the jersey.
“This has nothing to do with what this particular symbol represents.”
Lupton said the advocate players requested that the uniform policy be changed, with a policy amendment proposal submitted to include wearing symbols supporting social justice and commemoration, for example.
“This request has not yet been acknowledged by Chilliwack FC executive board,” he noted.
Lupton said the situation is particularly frustrating with professional sport leagues such as the NCAA, NBA, and NFL supporting the use of patches and stickers related to social justice issues.
“A community soccer club’s decision to punish players for showing support for statements that align with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and genuine human inclusion is unacceptable,” Lupton said. “The unprofessional handling and conduct of this issue by the Chilliwack FC board is appalling and needs to be acknowledged to create change.”
Laycock said CFC board felt strongly that ‘Respect for ALL’ would get a conversation started, and the board stands by their choice.
“The words can represent LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC, but they can also be applied to 101 things like respect for your opponents, your teammates, officials, your community,” Laycock said. “We felt it was a good first step and an opportunity to grow and educate as we continue.”
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