Canadian swimming legend Mark Tewksbury today officially presented his Olympic gold medal for a new exhibition at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) that explores the power of sport to inspire positive change.
"I won Olympic gold because there were people who supported me at a time when it wasn't okay to be openly gay," Tewksbury said today at a news conference held in the Museum's introductory gallery, where a case now displays the gold medal he won at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona – a time when he still felt unsafe coming out publicly as a gay man. Since 1998, he has become a tireless advocate for the rights of athletes of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
"It takes education to confront discrimination and create a world where everyone has the basic human right to be themselves. Sport is an important venue for raising awareness, and so is this museum."
Tewksbury's medal sits alongside a running "tutu" from Boston Marathon® women's rights pioneer Kathrine Switzer; artifacts highlighting the story of Herb Trawick, one of the first Black players in the Canadian Football League; a sledge and prosthetic upper limb used by hockey players with physical disabilities; a prosthetic running foot; and artifacts from the groups Coaches Across Continents and Mountain2Mountain, which use soccer and cycling to advance human rights for people around the world. (See attached backgrounder.)
"I'm so proud to see that Herb Trawick, a 1949 Grey Cup champion, will be a part of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights alongside other historic figures for the Year in Sport exhibition," said CFL Commissioner Jeffrey L. Orridge, who is the first Black commissioner of a major professional sports league in North American. "Herb was a great athlete and an important pioneer in a league known for its trailblazers. This will be a great opportunity for sports fans young and old to learn about Herb's story and the history of progress in the CFL."
CMHR interim president & CEO Gail Stephens said the new exhibit – created for the Year of Sport in Canada (2015) – shows how athletes, sport organizations and innovations for inclusion can promote human rights.
"The courage and commitment of the athletes and organizations featured in this exhibit are an inspiration to us all," Stephens said. "Their wins are not only measured by trophies and medals, but by the difference they've made for human rights. Like our museum, they are working to create awareness that can motivate others."
The Year of Sport exhibit will be on display at the CMHR until March 2016.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the CMHR creates inspiring encounters with human rights for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.
Interviews can be arranged with the featured athletes and groups.
Year of Sport exhibit
"Sport has the power to change the world." – Nelson Mandela
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has created a new exhibit about sport and human rights to mark the Year of Sport in Canada (2015). It examines how sport is a potent force for positive change, centred on three themes, in three display cases located in the Museum's introductory gallery, "What are Human Rights?"
Athletes breaking barriers of discrimination
It takes courage to confront discrimination and break barriers. Many athletes have overcome personal challenges and, in the process, inspired others to fight for equality. This display includes:
Olympic gold medal, "Q" Hall of Fame medal, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal, on loan from Canadian swimming legend Mark Tewksbury. Tewksbury has been a pioneering force in advocating for the rights of athletes of all sexual orientations and gender identities through his profile as a renowned swimmer, his work with the Canadian Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee, his involvement with the first World Outgames in 2006, and mentoring many young athletes of diverse sexual orientations.
Ballet wrap or "running tutu", on loan from Boston Athletic Association, Boston Marathon®. In 1967, American Kathrine Switzer challenged rules against women running in the Boston Marathon®, registering with her initials (instead of her name), wearing a baggy grey sweat suit. When race officials discovered her gender, they tried to forcibly remove her. In the early 1970s, she ran openly in the race, wearing what she called her "running tutu" to draw attention to her gender and raise awareness about barriers for women. In 1972, women were officially allowed to run for the first time. Switzer finished third, and was presented her trophy by the same official who had tried to push her from the race in 1967.
Autographed hat and 1946 Montreal Alouettes patch, on loan from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum. In 1946, Herb Trawick became the first Black player recruited by the Montreal Alouettes. His entry into the Canadian Football League opened the door to an increasing number of Black athletes, but they remained underrepresented for decades and excluded from management roles. The hat in this exhibit is autographed by the 1949 Grey Cup champion Alouettes. Trawick contributed a touchdown for the win.
Organizations using sports to create change
Recognizing the vital role sports can play to foster equality, conflict resolution, fairness and inclusion, many organizations use sport programs to advance human rights around the world. This display includes:
Bicycle helmet and jersey, donated by Mountain2Mountain. Founder Shannon Galpin, originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, uses cycling to help break gender barriers in Afghanistan – a country where riding bikes is believed to encourage immodesty among women. Working with the Afghan National Women's Cycling Team, Galpin works to promote women's rights and acceptance of their cycling, which can provide access to rural schools and greater general mobility. She has braved some of the most violent periods in Afghan history to work for women's education and health. Now living in Colorado, this avid mountain biker also uses cycling to fundraise for humanitarian causes.
T-shirt and soccer ball, donated by Coaches Across Continents (CAC). British soccer enthusiast and coach Nick Gates founded this group to help improve quality of life for children in countries around the world, many impacted by war and conflict. CAC uses soccer to leave a legacy of leadership, empowerment and choice, educating local leaders on peaceful conflict resolution, gender equity, inclusion, wellness (including HIV behaviour change) and life skills. In 2014, they worked in 26 countries, educating over 3,000 community coaches who influenced almost 300,000 young people.
Innovation for inclusion
Athletes with disabilities have been active in identifying design solutions for sports equipment that can remove barriers to participation. This display includes:
Hockey sledge with sticks, on loan from the Society of Manitobans with Disabilities Sledge Hockey Program. In the early 1960s, Swedish wheelchair athletes invented sledge hockey and fashioned a sledge from skate blades, round poles and bike handles. Participation in sledge hockey continues to grow and it is now one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Winter Games.
Upper-limb prosthesis and running foot, loan arranged by Winnipeg Prosthetics and Orthotics, Winnipeg Rehabilitation Centre for Children and Certified Prosthetist Dan Mazur of Winnipeg. These prostheses highlight technological advancements that enable people with amputations to participate in many sports. The design of the upper-limb prosthesis was adapted for use in hockey. The running foot is the latest model by Ossur Canada, assembled specially for the CMHR.