Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim hosted Sportscentre — and the backlash was appalling

Anyone old enough to read this is too old to need a reminder about the evils of racism. It's just disappointing, if not surprising, when this happens.

Tuesday's late-night TSN Sportscentre was hosted by Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim. There was a backlash on Twitter in 2012 when Ahluwalia and Karim, who are both brown men, debuted with the network. Tuesday was just as bad for comments that, rather than put a damning label on people, should just be called dumb.

One has to wonder where people are coming from when they cannot handle having two brown men narrating sports highlights. One can understand a disappointed reaction upon tuning in and not seeing the familiar faces of funnymen Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole at the anchor desk. But how does it go from that to this?

A few came to their senses and offered apologies. But was it because of the heat generated by their comments or from actually understanding, for instance, how low it is to make a terrorist 'joke' about anyone who is brown? Hard to tell.

So it's not racial to joke about turning a TV program off because of the ethnicity of the hosts. And likening any two brown men to two dead despots isn't offensive. Got it. Not one of the people called out is a racist. That might it more disturbing. It's all-walk-of-life people (well, exclusively males) who attend school, are gainfully employed and like everyday normal stuff such as hockey and beer. Yet having Toronto Maple Leafs highlights and what not narrated by two men with a different skin colour was so threatening it prompted nasty snark that played on Ahluwalia and Karim's backgrounds.

As Navin Vaswani pointed out, while this isn't blatantly racist, it's a show of cultural bias.

In between the off-the-cuff nature of Twitter and the fault lines in Canada's multicultural mosaic is a comfort zone where some who lack couth think it's okay to go there in a humourless, mean-spirited way. Comedian Russell Peters, who is Indo-Canadian, has become a millionaire doing routines that zing various cultural groups. The difference is that Peters can convey that it is joke, and he can take one.

At the same time, Canadian sports consumers who have similar background to Ahluwalia and Karim noticed. Given the anti reaction, the occasion called for showing a bit of pride.

The bottom line is this shouldn't be shrugged off with, "It's just Twitter." Twitter is the zeitgeist. This is 2013 and people acted like they wished the Canada of 1950 would come back. It isn't, and that's why the commentary was so callous.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to

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