By Amit Shilton
A community basketball tournament held at Ryerson last Sunday has organizers fuming after those in attendance were put through excessive security measures they say were racially motivated.
Urban Unity, which was organized by the Ryerson Students’ Union and the United Black Students at Ryerson among others, was ironically meant to combat racism and raise support for five women at Ryerson who quit the varsity basketball team after allegedly facing racially insensitive remarks from their coach.
Six Ryerson security guards and two paid duty police officers were stationed in front of the Kerr Hall gym, armed with metal detecting wands and an assignment to search bags, coats and pockets for drugs, weapons, alcohol and food. This is a measure organizers say was only taken because of the predominantly black clientele.
“(The administration) believed that when these type of people come together, especially when black students’ organizations (put) on an event together they need this much security and we need police,” Boonaa Mohammed, one of the event’s organizers, said. “They talked to us earlier saying the biggest event they held here before only required two security and two paid duties, but for some reason, we needed six security and two paid duties.”
David Dubois, Ryerson’s director of sports and recreation, said security and police officers are mandatory at any event where members outside of the Ryerson community are expected to attend, but others say this isn’t always the case.
Stan Powell, the director of promotions for Livingston Marketing Co. Inc., a company that specializes in the promotion of basketball leagues in Ontario, said that he’s rented the Ryerson gym before for basketball tournaments —the primary spectators are kids and parents — and never had to deal with police officers and only minimally Ryerson security. Chick Kennedy, the athletic director for the Toronto District School Board, said he can’t remember booking police for any event he organized at Ryerson, although security has always been present.
But Dubois said this has been standard practice for approximately two years, after an incident at a high school basketball tournament.
“We didn’t have enough security and two of our security guards got beat up,” he said. “Since then, we work really hard with our security people to make sure that we have proper security. To make sure that people are safe.”
RSU vice-president education Nora Loreto is concerned with how prospective high school students who were in attendance will now view the university.
“What about this event is going to make them stick around at this school? Is it the 52 division? All the security? The metal detectors? What are we, in an airport?” she said. “I’ve never in my entire time at Ryerson, in my life, seen that much security. And for what? It’s a basketball game.
“I’m not too sure how popular shooting people is at a basketball event.”
But Marvell Waythe, who had his apple juice confiscated, raised no qualms with the security check. “It keeps the peace,” he said.
As of press time, Lawrence Robinson, manager of security and emergency services, said he was unsure whether any weapons, drugs or alcohol were found during the search.
Sunday’s basketball tournament was held in part to support the five basketball players who quit the women’s varsity team earlier this season after coach Sandra Pothier allegedly made several culturally insensitive comments. The players filed a harassment and discrimination complaint in late August. The pamphlet for the Urban Unity event said because of a “lack of malicious intent” cleared the coach of any accountability and she continues to head the women’s 2-15 season.
“It actually feels good to be surrounded by this much support. People came out because they believe in our cause,” Julia Ounphongxay, one of the former players, said.
But for former Ryerson Athlete of the Year Amanda Redhead, the return to the court where she won many accolades was bittersweet. Wearing a Dawson College sweatshirt, where she once attended, and sitting quietly in a corner of the gym for most of the night, Redhead said she appreciates the support that the five have received from the student body, but that she’d rather be getting it from the administration.
“It’s very disappointing to know that I was here for three years and it’s basically I was here in vain and I definitely regret ever playing at this school,” Redhead said.