Edmonton Eskimos invite St. Albert family that received racist letter to football game
The president of the Edmonton Eskimos has invited a St. Albert family that received a threatening letter earlier this month to be his personal guests at the Nov. 3 game.
Len Rhodes said Wednesday the family accepted his invitation to join him at the football game and he couldn’t wait to meet the kids.
He shared the news on Twitter using the hashtag “Diversity is Strength.”
“Bullies like to keep things in secret and private and we need to speak out to show, not only this family, but the whole community that we will not tolerate stuff like this,” Rhodes told Global News on Thursday.
“Imagine those poor kids getting a letter like that. No kid deserves that.”
Katrina Anderson said her 12-year-old daughter came home from school on Oct. 15 and found the letter in the mailbox.
The letter was addressed to “the very unwanted and hated neighbours” and said it was from “your friendly Phase 2 neighbours.”
The note says the family is hated by the entire Grandin neighbourhood condo community because Anderson’s children are “constantly rollerblading and scootering on our driveways.”
“We don’t like your kind around here,” the note went on to say. “We lock our doors at night when there was no need to do that before you moved in.”
“Move out or things will escalate,” the letter said. “Would not want to see the kids getting hurt. This isn’t a reserve. Go back to the reserve where Indians belong!”
Both the mayor of St. Albert and the premier condemned the letter, calling it “beyond upsetting.”
After Anderson spoke out about the letter, her family experienced a huge outpouring of support.
Two days later, residents of the Grandin community in St. Albert hosted a gathering and flash mob to show support and kindness to the family.
“I thought about our community and how I know this is not what St. Albert is and this is not what the Grandin neighbourhood is,” Kristin Kalmbach said.
“I don’t want the horrible words of one to outweigh the love of our whole community.”
Kalmbach took to Facebook, posting on the community’s page and inviting families to come out and meet the Andersons.
“Can we show up with food, love, hockey sticks, bikes and just play? Show our support.”
Dozens answered the call, bringing dinner to the Andersons.
Rhodes said he heard about what happened to the Anderson family after he returned from an away game with the Eskimos. He said Corus radio host Charles Adler told him about what the family experienced. Rhodes said he was dismayed by what happened, but also heartened by how the community of St. Albert, where he lives, responded.
“I decided to write a note to the mother, Katrina Anderson, just saying that I feel bad about what happened and I’d like to do something… because I knew there was a mention that her boys play football,” he said.
“I said, ‘I’d love to have you as my personal guest on Nov. 3.’ The next morning… I got a response, and she said she’d be thrilled and she said she read my note to her children and the youngest child had tears… she said they were tears of joy and that just touched my heart.”
Rhodes told Global News that Anderson, her husband and their three children will come to the game, and the children will be outfitted with jerseys and hats before getting a special, up-close look at the players warming up before the game. He also said he had “a few surprises in store for them.”
“[I] just want to look… the children in the eyes, and say how for the most part in life, most people will be supporting them, and you’re always going to run into some bad people but don’t think that that reflects the population because it doesn’t,” he said.
“The Edmonton Eskimos, as a community-owned team, we always feel we want to help, and I want to use my public platform that’s been given to me to bring good to this community.”
Some people on social media have suggested that while Rhodes is speaking out against the racism experienced by the family, he should also be changing the football team’s nickname, which has been criticized by some. When asked for comment about the criticism, Rhodes pointed out he toured Canada’s north this summer to talk to Indigenous people about the name.
“I went into the Arctic this past summer and met many people from the Indigenous community and it was done with the utmost respect,” Rhodes said.
“We remove barriers, we take walls down and we want to celebrate diversity. And while some others want to use that in a negative way, I’m so proud that as president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, that the tradition that started in 1949 continues. And we will continue, if we do things in this community, it’s going beyond the sport of football on the field.
“We feel our responsibility goes beyond. And we want to add more value to the community regardless of people’s backgrounds.”
Rhodes said he realized some will continue to criticize the name.
“We are all one and we believe… when we say ‘diversity is strength,’ we want to walk the talk,” said Rhodes.
— With files from Sarah Kraus
Watch below: A letter directed at a young family north of Edmonton is racist and hateful and has gone viral. As Sarah Kraus explains, the family that received it is in shock.
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