National News

Quebec players taunted with racial slurs

By The Canadian Press

Published 1:57 PDT, Thu August 29, 2019

Last Updated: 2:31 PDT, Thu August 29, 2019

An official with the Quebec team competing at last weekend's men's national baseball championships in New Brunswick is criticizing the way Baseball Canada handled racist taunts directed at his players.

MONTREAL — An official with the team that represented Quebec at the recent national baseball championship in New Brunswick says his players won't return to any Baseball Canada tournaments if the national body doesn't properly address allegations of racism during the games.

Daniel Belisle, chef de mission for the provincial team, said a handful of drunken fans repeatedly screamed the N-word at a dark-skinned player on Team Quebec and told him to "go back to your coloured box," during the semi-final and bronze medal games Sunday in Miramichi, N.B.

Belisle, who is president of the Ligue de Baseball Majeur du Quebec, also said one of his colleagues was assaulted as he was leaving the stadium. The colleague was wearing a Team Quebec baseball cap and was hit hard in the shoulder. Belisle said the man is still in pain from Sunday's incident.

"We are shocked," Belisle said in an interview Thursday. "But what we want is for things to change."

Belisle filed a formal complaint with Baseball Canada, the national governing body for baseball, only to receive an email from a representative that he considered unsatisfactory. In the email, obtained by The Canadian Press, Andre Lachance, Baseball Canada's business and sport development director, said the organization made the "necessary verifications" with their representative who was at the game.

Lachance wrote that the Baseball Canada representative and the tournament organizer "seemed to have done what needed to be done to resolve the problem on-site. I appreciate that this type of behaviour is unacceptable in all sport events. Unfortunately, this is still happening in 2019. I am sorry for what happened."

Belisle said three men, who he thought were in their late 20s or early 30s, seemed drunk by the 1 p.m. semi-final game and they continued to drink through the afternoon.

The men allegedly taunted all the Quebec players, especially the one with darker skin. Belisle said the fans also called a bearded Quebec player an al-Qaida terrorist and a "bomber." He said fans around the three spectators laughed and encouraged them as they hurled racial slurs.

A Baseball Canada representative and the tournament organizer approached the three men and told them to stop, Belisle said. But the three fans resumed their racial taunts "incessantly" throughout the rest of the day, he said.

"They should have been expelled immediately," Belisle said of the three fans, noting that he didn't see any security guards at any of the games.

In an interview Thursday, Lachance said the email he sent to Belisle, dated Wednesday, was only preliminary. "We are trying to collect all the information necessary to be in a position to respond," he said. "We aren't taking this lightly."

Lachance said Baseball Canada doesn't have any rules governing how tournament organizers should respond to unruly fans, and he said he didn't know whether there was any security at the games over the weekend.

"If something happens the organizing committee can always call the police," Lachance said.

The 2019 men's national championship in Miramichi was organized by the local team, the Chatham Miramichi Honda Ironmen, Lachance said. Attempts to reach a team representative were unsuccessful.

Lachance said Baseball Canada will continue to investigate what happened "to see if we can do more about fans .... After an event like this, it will maybe bring us to reflect more on the subject."

Belisle said he would welcome a more thorough investigation by Baseball Canada.

He plans to present the national association with recommendations, including a requirement that teams broadcast a message before games reminding spectators to behave. He said Baseball Canada should also require that games be supervised by a security team.

"We want action," he said. "If they do nothing, we will stay home. That's for sure."

– Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

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