Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee, delivered a powerful and stinging address on day one of the first-ever Sports Integrity Week (SIW) being hosted online by the Sports Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA), the world’s largest independent integrity organisation.
on Monday, the Chair of SIGA Task Force of Race, Gender, Diversity and Inclusion spoke openly on these four topics and was pointed and passionate in his comments.
"In the world of international sport, sports leaders know the truth, see the truth but still believe the lies and deny the reality of racism, sexism," said Lewis, who is also the president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC).
"The principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights. Discrimination persists against religion, ethnic minorities, persons of African descent, older persons, women and persons with disabilities."
According to Lewis, racism remains the most common form of discrimination, citing an observation by 'Kick It Out' (football's equality and inclusion organisation) that it has risen and is worse now than it was five years ago.
Kick It Out was established as a campaign with the brand name 'Let's Kick Racism Out of Football' in 1993 and as an organisation in 1997. The organisation works within the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change.
"International sport is run by white, male decision-makers who have never been racially abused. They have no idea what being racially abused feels like. Or what being discriminated feels like, it doesn't affect them," simply said Lewis, who posed the question. "Can we trust world sports leaders who talk the talk?
"They say the politically right things when they are in public but behind the scenes, the actions they take don't reflect the principles of equality and non-discrimination
"Can we trust world sports leaders and decision-makers to walk, the talk?"
When the Task Force which Lewis heads was established in July, the members posed these tough questions to better be able to forge meaningful reform and promote the highest standards on race, gender, diversity and inclusion.
"The recommendations of the SIGA Task Force provide a framework and yardstick to monitor and evaluate to hold the mirror up," said Lewis. "Every member of the Taskforce had to themselves look into the mirror and do some deep soul searching as we all carry unconscious bias and prejudice of some sort or the other.
"Our vision must be aspirational to hearts and minds."
The Task Force includes Affy Sheikh, Head of Starlizard Integrity Services and SIGA Member; Angela Melo, SIGA Council Member; Densign White, CEO of International Mixed Martial Arts (IMMAF) and Member of the SIGA Council; Paul Elliot, Member of The FA Inclusion Advisory Board, former professional football play; Ju’Riese Colon, Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Center for SafeSport; Katie Simmonds, General Counsel & Senior Director, Global Partnerships, SIGA; Karin Korb, Wheelchair Tennis, 2-time Paralympian and 10-time member of USA World Team & SIGA Champion; Stacey Copeland, First British Woman to win the Commonwealth Title for Boxing and SIGA Champion; and Pavel Klymenko, Head of Policy at FARE Network (Football Against Racism in Europe).
Lewis was one of 12 straight-talking, inspirational and passionate speakers from around the world, delivering on day one of the Sport Integrity Week, which continues today and will run until Friday (September 11).
Day one opened with SIGA chairman Franco Frattini making a call to action urging all stakeholders to be uncompromising in the
battle against Integrity threats. SIGA CEO Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros extended this powerful messaging by not only stressing that stakeholders must “stand united and strong in the resolve to overcome this crisis. Sport must feel the passion – the catalyst of socio-economic progression. There is no second chance. Sport owns the problems but it must also own the solutions” but by also providing a platform for them to stand up and be counted.
In another significant leap towards inclusivity, the opening day of saw the launch of the first digital workshop for the SIGA Global Mentorship Programme on Female Leadership in Sport.
There was also a wealth of engaging content, fireside chats and impactful webinars from high profile speakers and sports legends and inspirational figures from a range of experience bases, organisations and perspectives including two-time Olympic gold medallist Edwin Moses, Renee Montgomery, two-time WNBA Champion (2015, 2017), Jessica Berman, Deputy Commissioner & Executive vice president, National Lacrosse League, Jon Duncan vice president, Enforcement, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to name a few.