In high school, I played lacrosse, a sport uncommon in my area despite growing up in the upper-middle class. I was one of two Black athletes on girls’ and boys’ teams. I had never played the sport, but I caught on quickly, got my support system on board, and was able to be a starter because of sheer drive and will.
However, something that would have helped: seeing more faces that looked like mine across the field and in the games we traveled to play. It was painfully evident that I was a newcomer in this space not initially made for me. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to play. Playing made me feel free, and though I was much smaller than the typical size of most players, I held my own. (Small but mighty.) And that’s all I wanted – a chance to show that I, too, belonged. So, when Snoop Dogg announced this week that he was part of a bid to buy the Ottawa Senators, I was elated.
Snoop explains that he wants kids in urban communities to learn and play the sport and to offer them opportunities through his Snoop Youth Hockey League, which will be part of his bid to buy the Senators if successful. Perhaps the most profound statement of his media tour: “The kids need to know there is an option to play hockey if you look like me.”
However, several online consumers and readers responded, “Hockey’s an expensive sport. Why would he pick that?” or “Hockey’s way too expensive for these kids; try basketball.” And just like that, we’re back to telling these Black and brown children that they don’t belong. Never mind if they’re talented; their assumed social status eliminates them from consideration. Responses like that not only wholly invalidate these children and their families, but that sort of thinking misses the point of Snoop’s actions.
The plan is to provide them an opportunity to play as so many of their peers have. Often these programs offer support to the families so they don’t have to worry about the “assumed financial plight” and can solely focus on what these children want to do: play. Programs like these provide avenues and pathways to the sport beyond childhood and sow roots in the professional sports world. The ultimate measure of success will be when future generations can look at their T.V. screens and see Black players on multiple teams across the NHL who came from Snoop’s Youth Hockey League.
This is why representation matters.
When children can see it and know it is tangible, they believe they can do it. It stops being a dream and becomes a reality.
Cheers to you, Snoop. The reality starts now.