People in equity and inclusion roles across Toronto are working to make the sports industry a better place.
Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment employee and Western University masters student, Brianna Nicolas, is aiming to make athletics safer for everyone.
She believes that sports doesn’t just have to be about games, that they can offer a higher purpose, and it begins with equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) teams.
“Sports have such a large platform that can be utilized to challenge the current status quo and allow equity to genuinely transform lives,” Nicolas said. “As EDI practitioners we want to make sure there is sustainability and authenticity in what we do, and that comes with fighting the good fight.”
Nicolas first felt a spark for her passion during her undergrad at Ontario Tech University, where she was captain of the women’s lacrosse team and won MVP in 2019.
Being a black woman in a predominantly white sport, the varsity athlete experienced microaggressions against her constantly. This is what motivated her to create the first ever Black Athletes Association for the university, and ultimately what would kickstart her EDI career .
After leaving her mark at Ontario Tech, she got into a masters program at Western University for critical policy, equity, and leadership studies and applied to intern for the Culture and Inclusion team at the Toronto Raptors.
“I can’t say enough good things about Brianna,” said Tenneya Martin, manager of Organizational Culture for the Raptors. “She added value to the Culture and Inclusion team by being a passionate advocate, and innovative thinker. Her efforts not only opened the types of events we were looking to implement but also broadened the list of organizations that we are connected to.”
Impact on Raptors
Nicolas left enough of an impact on the Raptors that she was hired at MLSE corporate as an EDI coordinator, where she still works today.
She deals with different scenarios at the head office than she did on the team side, but the goals still stay the same.
“I truly believe EDI can impact the sports industry and that some organizations are trying to move the dial, it’s just moving a little slowly, which is why I do what I do,” Nicolas said.
With diversity and inclusion teams being a relatively new venture in the world of athletics, this sector is just scratching the surface.
Despite some criticisms that corporations may face, people like Nicolas are working hard to change the status quo.
“Often organizations struggle in the court of public opinion for their lack of education and commitment in the aspects of EDI,” said David Taylor, Nicolas’ father. “She has what it takes to weed out the performative, breakaway from the checkbox, and provide guidance on what it means to create a real sense of belonging for equity deserving communities.”
Right now, the 25 year old is focusing on finishing her masters and continuing to make progressive change in sports through her career and personal goals.
Nicolas isn’t quite sure where goes from here, but she does dream of a time when EDI no longer needs to exist.
“I’m most excited for the day that my job doesn’t have to be a job anymore.”