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Social media campaign highlights Black athletes, coaches, and staff

For Black History Month, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football program has taken a creative approach to honour its Black community with the ‘28 in 28’ campaign on social media. 

For every day of February, the program is highlighting a success story from an athlete, coach, or support staff from the program whether it be on the field, in the classroom, or in the workforce. 

Post celebrating linebacker James Peter

Gee-Gees head coach Marcel Bellefeuille gave some insight on where the idea came from. 

“The overall idea to do something different for Black History Month was collective amongst the coaching staff, and our office coordinator,” said Bellefeuille.

“We looked at doing something and one of our assistant coaches brought up the fact that they’re doing something like that in the U.S. in terms of highlighting a student athlete every month.”

Finding a way to “dig a little deeper” into the lives within the team beyond the sport is also a main focus for the initiative said special teams coordinator and social media coordinator, Nathan Taylor. 

“We want to dig deeper into your nationality or your heritage so whether they’re Canadian or from the Congo, they’ll have different nuances, right.”

To add a more personal feel to the Twitter and Instagram posts, a personal graphic has been created for each of the included players and staff showcasing their heritage, occupation, field of study, and a quote. The graphics also include photos both in uniform and out.

Post celebrating running back Amlicar Polk

“For me, it was important that we look at our whole community, so we decided to not just have our players, but our alumni, and some of our support staff,” Bellefeuille said. 

“We just thought it would be important to talk about our whole community because we have diversity in our whole football community, not just our current players.” 

While there are still many more days in February, and many more individuals to highlight, the campaign has already received positive and enthusiastic comments. 

“Everyone that we’ve asked is really enthusiastic about it and they’ve been appreciative of the fact that we’re honoring and showcasing some of our alumni and some of our current players so it’s been really nice,” Taylor said. 

“I think one of the things that’s a little different in the way that we’re doing it, is it’s not necessarily all the guys [that] were all stars and all Canadians, some of our guys had shorter football careers and were successful afterwards.” 

Of course, the Black History Month initiative is incredibly important and is a main goal and focus of 28 in 28. 

“We want to celebrate our diversity as a program. One of the things we wanted to get out of it was that we didn’t want it just to be ‘here it is,’ “ Bellefueille said. 

“We wanted to bring attention to our black community as a whole and not just our football, our current football team and I think we were able to do that.”

Post celebrating recent alum Jackson Bennett

Expanding the initiative beyond February is the next objective. 

“I wish we could do it more often. We are banging out these 28 guys, which is phenomenal,” said Taylor. “But how can we continue this because there’s so many other people it’s such an important initiative to limit it to one month.”