Family overjoyed after Ontario basketball league stops using the term midget

Family overjoyed after Ontario basketball league stops using the term \midget\
ONTARIO: Guelph league leads Ontario-wide push to drop midget age category
When Regina Scott's two-year-old son Jeremy was born with dwarfism, her family noticed just how commonplace the term "midget" is in sports — and decided to do something about it.

"We realized how derogatory and offensive and belittling the term is to people of short stature," Scott told As It Happens host Carol Off.

“It’s going to cost our club a little bit of money to remake all of our permanent signage — but who cares,” he said. “In this case, it doesn’t hurt anyone else who isn’t affected by the word and it’s going to make a world of difference to those kids and those families who are affected by the word.”

After a push from the Scott family, the Guelph Youth Basketball Association agreed to drop the term "midget" from its age classifications. The Ontario Basketball Association will make the change next year. 

It has long been used in basketball and other sports to define players in the 14 -16 age category, but it is also an offensive word used to describe people with dwarfism.

"Our commitment is to make it come together for next year because our season just started," Jansson said. "So obviously there's some promotional material that we want to change and there's some rules and regulations manuals that we want to change.”

Scott's husband Chris is a longtime basketball player and now a coach with the Guelph league, and even played in the "midget" level when he was that age.

"I think it's better for all sorts of different reasons," he said. "First of all, it's more understandable of what age group we're talking about. Second of all, if it's offensive to someone then there's no reason to use it."

While Jeremy still has quite a few years until he can play in the league, Scott worried about the effect the term would have on her two older children.

"I think of my older children, in a couple of years, being in that level and I know that it would be one of those things … that they're cringing every time they're hearing a word that is essentially belittling their little brother," she said.

"It just started off as a casual conversation and I … brought awareness to the meaning of the word with the Guelph youth basketball president, Kurt Vosper," Scott said.

“Our older kids will be in that level and it won’t be something that every time you say the name of their team or they are wearing their spirit wear that they are carrying that name on their sleeve,” she said.

"It's still going to be the same caliber of basketball, it's still going to be the same game. It just has a different classification level," she said.

A couple days later, the Ontario Basketball league announced that they would also be dropping the term.

"Honestly we were so grateful, so overjoyed. It does a lot for a community of people and their families and their siblings and people who will be playing in that level," Scott said.

Canada Basketball, the sport's governing body in the country, already uses numerical designators for age categories. The practice is also used by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

"I'd like to see that change happen all across the board because there's nothing positive about that word," Scott said.  

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

“We hope by taking it out of basketball, that removes it from the vocabulary of a lot of people and it’s going to be less and less common,” she said.

GUELPH – In support of a local family, Guelph Youth Basketball Association has spearheaded an effort that will see the word ‘midget’ removed from age classifications used in the future by Basketball Ontario.

Chris and Regina Scott are parents of three children, the youngest of whom is two years old Jeremy, who was born with dwarfism.

In Ontario, the midget category will likely be called U15 (under-15) and major midget would go to U16 (under-16) for the 2019-20 season.

Regina’s husband Chris coaches with Guelph Youth Basketball Association (GYBA) and their two eldest children play in the league. She said her family became aware of the word’s derogatory meaning after Jeremy was born.  

“When we joined the little people community it was brought to our attention — I had no idea,” said Regina.

Chris and Regina Scott are parents of three children, the youngest of whom is two years old Jeremy, who was born with dwarfism.

“People are getting called out for using the N word, for using the R word. These are not acceptable anymore, and even as of 10 or 15 years ago it wasn’t a big deal. Now people respect it and say yes, that’s rude and offensive,” said Regina.

She recently brought up the derogatory nature of the word while having a conversation with Kurt Vosper, the GYBA president.

“When we joined the little people community it was brought to our attention — I had no idea,” said Regina.

“While I have known the family for a while and followed their journey with their son, I knew it was a hurtful word but never put the two together in my own head, because I am so used to those terms,” said Vosper. “When the family brought it up to me I thought it made a lot of sense to remove that word.”

Vosper committed to the Scott family that GYBA would no longer use the word as an age classification, but he went one step further by making Ontario Basketball and Basketball Canada aware of the concern.

He reached out to Canada Basketball president Glen Grunwald and Jason Guelph , executive director of Ontario Basketball.

Jansson said the organization's board supported the change and plans will likely be formalized later this season.

In Ontario, the midget category will likely be called U15 (under-15) and major midget would go to U16 (under-16) for the 2019-20 season.

"Our commitment is to make it come together for next year because our season just started," Jansson said. "So obviously there's some promotional material that we want to change and there's some rules and regulations manuals that we want to change.”

Canada Basketball, the sport's governing body in the country, already uses numerical designators for age categories. The practice is also used by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

Canada Basketball president and chief executive officer Glen Grunwald said the subject will be raised at its annual general meeting in the spring.

"I think it's better for all sorts of different reasons," he said. "First of all, it's more understandable of what age group we're talking about. Second of all, if it's offensive to someone then there's no reason to use it."

“It’s going to cost our club a little bit of money to remake all of our permanent signage — but who cares,” he said. “In this case, it doesn’t hurt anyone else who isn’t affected by the word and it’s going to make a world of difference to those kids and those families who are affected by the word.”

“Someone asked me why the rest of society should bear the burden of this. If you can explain to me what the burden is, then I’d like to know,” he said.

Regina said she is overwhelmed by the support her family has received from GYBA and Ontario Basketball.

“We hope by taking it out of basketball, that removes it from the vocabulary of a lot of people and it’s going to be less and less common,” she said.

“Our older kids will be in that level and it won’t be something that every time you say the name of their team or they are wearing their spirit wear that they are carrying that name on their sleeve,” she said.

“He’s only two and a half. It’s amazing that he’ll never know that level was called that,” she said.