Athletes aggrieved by McGill’s cancellation of nine varsity sports

On July 21, McGill Athletics announced that nine sports seasons would be cancelled for the 2021-2022 season. The affected teams include artistic swimming, alpine skiing, badminton, baseball, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, rowing, and woodsmen. The announcement came as a disappointment to hundreds of athletes who were eager to return to competition after a nearly year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and left many confused, as the cancellations came with little warning or explanation. 

Auguste Guern, third-year infielder for the McGill baseball team, shared his disappointment with the decision in an interview with The McGill Tribune.

“McGill provided us with some explanations which were linked to health problems and the pandemic,” Guern said. “However, in my opinion, the reasons were not very clear. We did not receive clear [communication]. I can understand their motives of [wanting] to protect the athletes, but why [has] baseball been cut and not football, for example?”

Although McGill’s official statement cited that the continuation of COVID-19 protocols meant the Athletics staff had a limited capacity to provide support and care for athletes, many, including Lacrosse midfielder Daniel Chand, U3 Arts, believes this reasoning is senseless. 

“With [McGill] opening up the school and having people from all over the world back, and also the CUFLA [Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association] creating a new division to keep teams from travelling too far, [the cancellation]  did not make any sense to me,” Chand told the Tribune.

The CUFLA league announced in mid-June that it would run the fall season, giving the McGill Lacrosse team the impression that their season would happen. The league would have included McGill, Bishop’s University, Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, and Carleton University, with all teams still expected to follow pandemic protocols. The league is still set to take place this year with all other schools still competing, despite McGill no longer participating. 

Chand was especially surprised to see his season cancelled after the McGill Lacrosse team was given a one-million-dollar donation by the Généreux family in June 2021, two months before the program was cut. 

“One of our lacrosse alumni just donated one million dollars, so if [McGill Athletics] was worried about doing all the medical [protocols] and providing a trainer, they have more than enough money to hire some people,” Chand said.

According to Chand, McGill Athletics has provided no support to those teams whose seasons were cancelled since the announcement.

“We were going to try and play in a local league, but McGill [Athletics] would not even let us do that,” Chand said. “We are pretty much self-funded to begin with. The only thing we get out of McGill is the use of the name and the fields. It is fairly obvious that McGill only let the bigger sports that are a part of USports and bring in sponsors continue to play.”

Guern shared similar sentiments regarding McGill’s lack of support, noting how varsity athletes whose seasons were cut were barred from accessing the training facilities.

“The help after [being cut] is non-existent,” Guern said. “For example, varsity athletes whose seasons have been cut are not allowed to work out in the varsity gym anymore. We still want to stay in shape and healthy for next year, but now the only gym access we have is the main fitness [centre] […] and we have to pay [like] every other non-varsity athlete.”

For McGill to seemingly arbitrarily pick and choose which teams get to play and which do not is a disservice to the McGill teams and athletes that dedicate much of their life to training. Prioritizing the most popular teams or those that bring in the most revenue undermines the notion of a thriving athletics department.

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