Nicholas Representing More Than Just Canada
Breanne Nicholas has been one of Chatham-Kent’s top athletes for a decade, a point which she solidified this past summer competing with Team Canada’s Rugby 7s team at the Tokyo Olympics.
In December of 2021, she became the captain of Canada’s Rugby 7s team for a series of competitions overseas.
Nicholas has represented Canada in many ways, and at many levels, but as an athletes with Black, White, and Indigenous background, she’s also representing more than just her country. Nicholas was representing Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) across sport.
“I think it is very important to have representation of BIPOC women athletes on our team and in sport in general. When youth, and in particular BIPOC youth watch the Olympics and other international competition and see BIPOC Women athletes it shows them that they too can represent in sport, and that can empower them to pursue sport on all levels.”
Canada’s rugby team has focused on equality, diversity, and inclusion, and this past summer wore orange in competition to help bring awareness to the atrocities of Residential Schools and how they impacted Indigenous communities.
While some may take the international exposure for granted, Nicholas knows that the world stage is also an opportunity to bring awareness not only to athletic talents, but to important issues.
“Playing on the world stage gives us the ability and opportunity to use our platform to showcase our athletic talents but also represent so many equity seeking communities in Canada.”
Growing up, Nicholas starred not only in rugby, where she played for the Kent Havoc, and later for London St. George’s and Western University, but in other sports including track and field.
The Blenheim product never felt direct racism growing up, but looking back, knows that people judged her based on the colour of her skin, and after gaining world experience, she now recognizes the microaggressions that infiltrated everyday life.
“I never really questioned my background growing up. I never noticed or experienced any blatant racism growing up, because while I was immersed in the community, it was all I knew,” she explained. “It wasn’t until I visited other communities outside of our small town and grew up that I could identify the microaggressions that did take place. For example, others crediting my athletic ability for being black, ignoring my full racial identity and the hard work I put into sport.”
Now, Nicholas is hoping to inspire other BIPOC women and girls. In December, she topped all Canadian scorers at the Emirate 7s tournament in Dubai as part of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, and with her role as Canada’s captain, her role as a leader and mentor continues to grow.
While she hasn’t been a direct target of racism, other members of Canada’s rugby team have.
“I have…experienced racism targeted towards our BIPOC members of our team
and in the sports world.”
Hopefully with people like Breanne Nicholas using their voice to speak out, rugby and all sport will soon be a safer space for all people, regardless of skin colour.
“Read more about Chatham-Kent athletes, and the issues of race and sport in Ian Kennedy’s forthcoming book, “On Account of Darkness: Shining Light on Race and Sport” due out in the spring of 2022 from Tidewater Press.”