Orange jerseys raise awareness

Oct 5, 2021

The Blue and Gold will be in orange this week.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the visiting Edmonton Elks will wear orange jerseys during pre-game warmup on Friday night at IG Field to recognize Orange Shirt Day.

It's the first time this has been done in the CFL and fans will be able to own a part of history as the jerseys will be auctioned off online after the game. Proceeds will go to each team's charity of choice. The Bombers chose the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre and the Elks selected Spirit North.

The uniforms were unveiled at a news conference at IG Field Tuesday as Bombers fullback Mike Miller, left tackle Stanley Bryant, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, and defensive tackle Jake Thomas modelled the new look.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, Grand Chief Jerry Daniels from Southern Chiefs Organization, Blue Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller, and Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) president Carmele Peter were in attendance and spoke at the event.

"When the 215 unmarked graves were discovered and the country started reeling and the communities were again reinvigorating the trauma of residential schools and that shameful history, at the time, our colleagues on the provincial government were floundering and didn't know whether or not it'd be appropriate to lower flags and had no idea how they should move forward," Dumas said.

"But I got a very significant call from Wade in acknowledgement of that day in asking: 'What meaningful steps can be taken to address this history that affects so many of us?' And here we are today, acknowledging the history of residential schools, memorializing the 6,500-plus unmarked graves that we've found, and finding a guiding light and a healing light for us to move forward."

Starting in 2017, the Bombers and EIC have been bringing members of Indigenous communities throughout Manitoba to games at IG Field. It started with 40, but this Friday's game will see 1,000 members - from all over Manitoba, as well as parts of Northern Ontario and Nunavut - coming to the game. EIC is covering the cost of flights, transportation and hotels for everyone in the program. They're also providing the members with orange hoodies to wear on game day.

"It's truly impactful to see a child's face light up because they're seeing a professional football player for the first time, or they walk into the stadium in awe because they've never been anywhere like it, or they're staying in a hotel for the first time, it's truly, truly impactful," said Peter.

"So, when we had the opportunity to partner with AMC and the Bombers to make the events of Friday a reality, we jumped in with both feet."

The Bombers and AMC discussed some ideas on how they could work together to raise awareness and settled on wearing orange uniforms in the pre-game warmup. The Bombers contacted the CFL's jersey manufacturer, New Era, and they were able to get them designed and made on short notice.

"It's the right thing to do and we've got that ability to do it," Miller said.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

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