Warning: This article includes language some readers may find disturbing.
A group of more than 70 academics who are part of Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport have called out “alarming social media posts” they say were made by North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) 2023 host society president George “Tex” Marshall.
The Sept. 8 letter said “Marshall’s casually pernicious social media content contributes to a troubling trend and builds upon a toxic infrastructure; having gone unaddressed for so long, it reinforces the need to pay closer attention to the layers of enabled violence that affect already vulnerable groups like girls and women in sport.”
The letter was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office and refers to alleged social media posts and likes dating back to 2017, some they said were made during his tenure as NAIG president.
One of the posts highlighted by the academics includes a selfie of Marshall wearing a NAIG hat with the caption “OK guys who took Barbie’s clothes off when they were a lil fellar (raised hand).” Another photo shows an inkblot test with the caption “I see a p—y with teeth.”
In all, they cited 15 offensive posts with screenshots, said to have been posted by Marshall containing overtly sexual and vulgar language, some of which have since been removed.
Global News reached out to Marshall for comment but did not receive a response by publication time.
MacIntosh Ross, a professor at Western University and coordinator for Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport, said the group decided to draft the open letter because of gaps between policy and practice they say they are seeing across sport.
“The whole situation highlights the continued toxic, masculine playing field children are expected to navigate in Canadian sport,” said Ross.
“Despite the government’s efforts to clean up sport and make it safe, even the simplest things — like ensuring administrators aren’t posting incredibly misogynistic things on social media — are still going unchecked.”
This comes as the safety of young and vulnerable athletes is under heavy scrutiny in Canada amid calls for a public inquiry into abuse and inappropriate conduct in a wide array of sports, including hockey and gymnastics.
Critics say there’s a need for more oversight and accountability of those in positions of power in sports. Calls for an inquiry remain unanswered.
“It’s important not to downplay the influence of social media here, we know the impact social media can have on children and youth,” said Ross. “Sports administrators need to proceed with this in mind.”
“(Leaders are) sending a message every time they post, they’re figures young people look to for direction and support. If their social media feeds are filled with problematic, offensive posts, how does that make an athlete feel regarding their ability to speak out about maltreatment?”
Global News also reached out to NAIG Council and Aboriginal Sport Circle who both declined to comment on the matter.
“A big part of the crisis in Canadian sport is, after years of failing athletes, many folks don’t feel they can report abuse to administrators,” said Ross. “That problem shouldn’t be exacerbated by social media.”
The Prime Ministers Officer responded to the letter saying they had received it and “be assured that your comments, offered on behalf of Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport, have been carefully reviewed.”