It’s a term which has been a part of sports leagues in the province and across the country for ages.
But the word “midget” is considered derogatory and offensive to some, and now there’s a call for change to ban the term from being used in Manitoba sports.
Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk, president of the Little People of Manitoba, said the organization met with Sport Manitoba this summer to discuss getting rid of the term and a second meeting is scheduled for January.
“It’s very derogatory. It’s a word that brings up a lot of negative emotions,” Rayburn-Trubyk said.
Currently, there are midget hockey and football leagues in the province featuring athletes from 15 to 17 years old.
Leagues with an age level below midget (13 to 14 years old) are sometimes referred to as minor-midget.
While it will be up to the individual leagues and sports groups to make the change, Sport Manitoba said they are on board with the move.
“We need to get it right, and I think this is a fairly simple change,” said Sport Manitoba director of sport Janet McMahon. “Language dictates culture, and we want to create a culture for diversity and inclusion. This makes sense for us.”
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The Ontario Basketball Association announced last week it would drop the term when referring to sports teams. Rayburn-Trubyk thinks changes shouldn’t be limited to specific provinces.
“It needs to happen all over Canada, for our kids that are coming and trying to grow up in a more inclusive world, a more supportive world,” Rayburn-Trubyk said. “When they go out into the sports world, they are reminded every single time.”
Peter Woods, executive director of Hockey Manitoba, said they’ve never considered the change, but are “always receptive to listening to concerns.”
“It hurts you inside”
It’s a term Vivek Bhagria is all too familiar with. Bhagria, an athlete who has competed at multiple World Dwarf Games competitions has been called a “midget” much of his life.
“It’s offensive, it hurts you inside,” Bhagria said.
“I’ve always heard things like that, but since growing up, I’ve grown out of it. It doesn’t bother me anymore,” Bhagria said.
He hopes the change can soon be made in sports so little people growing up won’t have to deal with hearing the word.
“Why can’t it be the U19 football league or the adult football league… why does it have to be ‘midget?'”
Rayburn-Trubyk said it’s frustrating it’s taken so long to have these conversations, but is optimistic change is coming soon.
“This is all part of making great change,” she said. “It’s the next step for us. It’s just climbing the mountain and we’re going to do it.”