The Canadian Football League was already planning to launch their 'Diversity is Strength' campaign, but the organization decided to go ahead weeks sooner due to the recent racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Players and coaches from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions displayed clothing with the positive message during practice before Sunday's game.
Speaking to press on Monday, CFL director of communications, Paulo Senra, said that the shirts were initially made for the country's 150th anniversary celebrations. "As part of Canada's 150th birthday," Senra began, "we wanted to highlight the important values of our country and the parallels with our league. 'Diversity is Strength' was ultimately chosen because of how well it encapsulated the progressive history of the CFL and its players."
Paulo Senra also made it clear that he and his superiors felt the need to greenlight the campaign earlier in the wake of white supremacists and neo-Nazis descending on Virginia this past weekend. "The idea to release the T-shirts on Sunday in Saskatchewan was a direct response to those events, and yet another way for the CFL to show that while we are not perfect, we are adamantly against hate and bigotry and stand for diversity and inclusion".
Along with football players rocking the shirts, the pieces were also sold on-site during the Roughriders and Lions game. Due to the hastened release, merch was brought in limited quantities and quickly sold out. Thanks to the overwhelming support, however, the CFL is planning to give the 'Diversity is Strength' apparel a wider release. It's already proven to be a hit with fans online, and the league says that along with the important message, the shirts are actually making a difference off of the field. A portion of the campaign's proceeds will be donated to local foods banks in collaboration with Purolator Tackle Hunger. To purchase a piece from the line, you can visit the CFL's website here.