Local resident Sophia Tabone and her seven year old son Christian made headlines earlier this year with their story about pushing for the removal of the term “midget” from sports leagues’ age categories.
Christian, who plays in the Bradford Minor Baseball Association, was born with dwarfism and his family has been advocating against the category name in support of their son. The association announced in January it would be removing the term from its league.
Since then, the South Simcoe Basketball Club has also eliminated the “midget” age category, but executive director of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association said the hockey league is unable to make any changes at this time.
“Once we saw the story, we knew that it would just be appropriate to approach that conversation,” said Michael Nadon, president of the basketball club, noting he wants all members to feel welcome and included.
The change took effect just in time for the league’s spring sessions.
He said the club now refers to the categories by age, but he can only speak for his own league, so there is a chance the term could come up in tournaments held throughout the province.
“We can’t change Ontario basketball literature at this point,” he explained.
But he said he is happy his league is being proactive about the term.
“It’s a community thing, and it’s about everybody, and we wouldn’t want to offend anybody in the process,” he said. “We’re trying to bring people into the program and share our love of the sport, so if that’s a minor thing we can do then we are happy to do that.”
As for the hockey leagues in Bradford, they are unable to make any changes as of yet.
Ian Taylor, executive director of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, said the age-group division terminology is determined by Hockey Canada, which had not made a change.
“I am aware that they (Hockey Canada) have engaged in a process to review, but I don't have any more information than that at this time,” he said.
The removal of the term from the Bradford Minor Baseball Association was met with a lot of support from its members, said Shawna Miller, vice president of the association.
“The perks of living in a small town is that we lift each other up and encourage positive changes,” she said.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman even shared the Tabone’s story on the Twitter and Instagram accounts for his clothing line, HDMH (Height Doesn’t Measure Heart) Apparel.
Sophia Tabone said she is also currently in talks with York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney about making the month of October Dwarfism Awareness Month in BWG, since the day is observed internationally on Oct. 25.
Miller said once the Tabone’s story got out there, the feedback from the public wasn’t all positive, with some people calling the family “snowflakes” and other comments claiming the family is being too sensitive.
“That part was very challenging for the family. But for every stranger attacking the change, there seemed to be a local supporting it, which was amazing to see,” she said.
In solidarity, the South Simcoe Minor Baseball Association, the York Simcoe Baseball Association, and the Ontario Baseball Association have eliminated the name as well.
“The term was never chosen in sports as an insult, but after being educated on it, keeping it wasn’t an option,” said Miller.
“The BMBA strives to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all players, and eliminating a hurtful word simply kept us in line with our mandate. We didn’t change the game — we just changed a name.”