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Seahawks punter Jon Ryan withdraws as co-grand marshal of Regina’s Pride Parade

Click to play video 'Seahawks punter Jon Ryan withdraws as co-grand marshal of Regina’s Pride Parade' Seahawks punter Jon Ryan withdraws as co-grand marshal of Regina’s Pride Parade
Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan has stepped aside as co-grand marshal of Regina's Pride Parade after a backlash from opponents to the selection.

Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan has withdrawn from his role as a co-grand marshal for the Queen City Pride Parade in Regina after people became upset with him receiving the honour.

Organizers of the June 16 parade said the NFL player told them on Friday that he would no longer be a co-grand marshal.

Opponents voiced their displeasure with the selection last Wednesday at a town hall meeting.

READ MORE: Saskatoon police to wear golf shirts instead of uniforms in Pride parade

A statement detailing some of the concerns from the meeting said that Ryan, a Regina native who is federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s brother-in-law, didn’t represent local LGBTQ athletes and teams.

The theme of this year’s parade is “Pride In Sports”, something that is still being recognized with a contingent of local athletes, including members of the Regina Riot and Pile O’ Bones Derby Club.

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“I think a lot of people saw the selection of Jon Ryan as Grand Marshall as a missed opportunity to showcase the people who are working every day in the city of Regina to create safer spaces for LGBTQ people,” UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Diversity Executive Director Jacq Brasseur said.

“He felt he needed to take a step out of the parade to allow the community to focus on itself and share the light with members of the community,” Regina Pride Co-Chair Dan Shier explained.

Others raised concerns that the work of AIDS Program South Saskatchewan, which was the other co-grand marshal, wasn’t being highlighted.

Ryan’s wife, Sarah Colonna Ryan, posted a statement on behalf of her husband on Facebook, where Ryan says he will continue to stand up for equality and the LGBTQ community.

“The negativity it’s bringing is the opposite of what pride stands for and as an ally I want to step aside so that the community has someone they all agree on in the role,” said the statement, which was posted in a reply to Queen City Pride’s Facebook post about Ryan withdrawing.

Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan announces decision to withdraw from Regina Pride parade.
Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan announces decision to withdraw from Regina Pride parade. Queen City Pride Facebook

“I was very honoured to be asked, but it seems the best thing I can do is let someone else fill the role.”

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READ MORE: NFL’s Jon Ryan, brother-in-law to Andrew Scheer, to be grand marshal of Regina Pride parade next month

Organizers said in a statement on Sunday that although Ryan’s attendance created some controversy, it ended up helping their community to listen to one another.

“The reaction that we got from it was definitely mixed, but we understand both sides of the story, and did everything we could to make sure everybody’s voices were heard,” Shier explained.

“I think what resulted from the conversations was very valuable to the work that we do as part of the community. The conversations helped give us a better understanding of what a community is, so in the end I’m thankful for the opportunity to have had Jon be a part of our parade,” he continued.

But the timing of the discussion, and the public manner in which they occurred, means instead the parade will go on without Ryan, an unfortunate consequence of the larger learning experience.

“[This] does show that Jon Ryan is an ally, and he’s reflecting on his behaviour, but I look at the town hall meeting that took place; no one in the town hall meeting wanted this to happen. Really, I think that people on both sides of the argument have lost here,” Brasseur noted.

On top of insightful conversation about what the LGBTQ+ community in Regina is looking for in its representatives, it has also led to publicity of the event, something other participants are thankful for.

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“Despite the fact that there has been some negativity around Jon Ryan, he has brought so much attention to pride, which I think is honestly the most important part, is just to continue to bring attention to pride and the lack of inclusiveness that we still face and that the LGBTQ community still faces,” Stephanie Milla, Co-Grand Marshall for the Queen City Pride Parade said.

Neither Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe nor Scheer, who represents Regina-Qu’Appelle, are attending the parade.

The parade is in its 29th year and has about 80 floats or walking groups participating.

With files from Colton Praill