GUELPH - In support of a local family, Guelph Youth Basketball Association has spearheaded an effort that will see the word ‘midget’ removed from age classifications used in the future by Basketball Ontario.
Chris and Regina Scott are parents of three children, the youngest of whom is two years old Jeremy, who was born with dwarfism.
Regina’s husband Chris coaches with Guelph Youth Basketball Association (GYBA) and their two eldest children play in the league. She said her family became aware of the word’s derogatory meaning after Jeremy was born.
“When we joined the little people community it was brought to our attention — I had no idea,” said Regina.
Changing the name is not about political correctness, said Regina, but getting with the times.
“People are getting called out for using the N word, for using the R word. These are not acceptable anymore, and even as of 10 or 15 years ago it wasn’t a big deal. Now people respect it and say yes, that’s rude and offensive,” said Regina.
She recently brought up the derogatory nature of the word while having a conversation with Kurt Vosper, the GYBA president.
The word is commonly used as an age classification in a number of sports, said Vosper.
“While I have known the family for a while and followed their journey with their son, I knew it was a hurtful word but never put the two together in my own head, because I am so used to those terms,” said Vosper. “When the family brought it up to me I thought it made a lot of sense to remove that word.”
Vosper committed to the Scott family that GYBA would no longer use the word as an age classification, but he went one step further by making Ontario Basketball and Basketball Canada aware of the concern.
He reached out to Canada Basketball president Glen Grunwald and Jason Guelph , executive director of Ontario Basketball.
“They were both super responsive and within 24 hours they responded to me,” said Vosper.
Jansson said the organization's board supported the change and plans will likely be formalized later this season.
In Ontario, the midget category will likely be called U15 (under-15) and major midget would go to U16 (under-16) for the 2019-20 season.
"Our commitment is to make it come together for next year because our season just started," Jansson said. "So obviously there's some promotional material that we want to change and there's some rules and regulations manuals that we want to change.”
Canada Basketball, the sport's governing body in the country, already uses numerical designators for age categories. The practice is also used by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
Canada Basketball president and chief executive officer Glen Grunwald said the subject will be raised at its annual general meeting in the spring.
"I think it's better for all sorts of different reasons," he said. "First of all, it's more understandable of what age group we're talking about. Second of all, if it's offensive to someone then there's no reason to use it."
Vosper said changing the name was just the right thing to do.
“It’s going to cost our club a little bit of money to remake all of our permanent signage — but who cares,” he said. “In this case, it doesn’t hurt anyone else who isn’t affected by the word and it’s going to make a world of difference to those kids and those families who are affected by the word.”
Vosper agrees with Regina that changing the name is not a matter of political correctness.
“Someone asked me why the rest of society should bear the burden of this. If you can explain to me what the burden is, then I’d like to know,” he said.
Regina said she is overwhelmed by the support her family has received from GYBA and Ontario Basketball.
“We hope by taking it out of basketball, that removes it from the vocabulary of a lot of people and it’s going to be less and less common,” she said.
Regina is pleased the name is being removed before her children enter that age category.
“Our older kids will be in that level and it won’t be something that every time you say the name of their team or they are wearing their spirit wear that they are carrying that name on their sleeve,” she said.
Regina is thankful to never have to explain why that word is still being used by GYBA to Jeremy.
“He’s only two and a half. It’s amazing that he’ll never know that level was called that,” she said.
— GuelphToday.com, with files from The Canadian Press