Sharing a message of solidarity against violence against women, two BC Lions athletes took to Kitimat as part of the Be More Than a Bystander program.
The Lions, Travis Lulay and Rolly Lumbala, were given a warm Kitimat welcome with a breakfast at the fire hall where community members were introduced to the program through a video presentation.
But the real meat of their visit came from their trip to Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School where they put their message to those who would most eagerly hear it, students.
Following speaking to an auditorium of students, the two athletes held a workshop directly with a smaller group of students after.
Kitimat students, they report, were very smart and engaging with the subject matter.
“You can tell they [students] were very attentive, dialed in,” Lulay said, especially about the smaller ‘break out’ session. “These break-out sessions, typically they’re only as good as the kids allow it to be, just with their involvement and feedback and their willingness to contribute to the group discussion and these guys were great.”
Lumbala said all the kids were really engaging to the conversation
“The support from the whole community…you can see so many people on board and wanted to get the message across,” he said.
Both say that since the advent of the program in 2011, the culture even in the locker room of the BC Lions has changed.
“We’re so desentized to a lot of the stuff that goes on around us that often times we found ourselves not even thinking about these issues, especially people who it hasn’t somehow directly impacted their lives,” said Lulay.
He said the approach of the program is to give people tools even if they aren’t the perpetrator of gender violence.
“Respect one another but also the women in our lives. That’s the kind of culture we try to create among the football club. And you can see, absolutely, that…we’re kind of like the police in the locker room. I would say the culture has changed, definitely,” said Lumbala.
Among the tools they teach to students is simply to try changing the subject or telling a joke in a way that helps draw attention to someone perhaps acting inappropriately that their behaviour is not acceptable. Stopping someone from speaking in offensive ways to women could help curb future physical violence.
“We hope to give these guys some real options,” said Lulay.
While the message is universal, they acknowledge their position as football players helps them reach their audience.
“It gets a foot in the door to at least get their attention for a period of time,” said Lumbala.