The Toronto Raptors are known to be one of the most socially active organizations in all of North American sports, often leading the line in driving social change and advocating for inclusivity in sports and society.
The Raptors brand has long represented a space that promotes and encourages diversity, while fostering a fan base that welcomes dialogue towards progressive social change.
Indigenous artist Mike Ivall — also known as Big Nish — has collaborated with Toronto artist Casey Bannerman to design a custom Raptors jersey in honour of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
“This project gives me a sense of pride, both for my city and my heritage. The inspiration for the design actually came in 2019, when the Raptors won the NBA Title," Ivall said. "I thought it would be cool to see my culture in the Raptors logo, so I indigenized it in the woodland art style. My art is my personal healing journey. It allows me to learn language and teachings that I never had growing up.”
The reimagined take on the classic white jersey is done in a woodland art style, featuring "Giiwedin" — the Ojibwe word for "North" — emblazoned above a modified version of the original Dino logo.
The item will go live for sale at caseybannerman.com on Friday, Sept. 30. Part of the proceeds will go to the Orange Shirt Society, a non-profit organization that supports Residential School Reconciliation and creates awareness about the inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools.
According to Indigenous Foundations, the residential school system "forcibly separated children from their families for extended periods of time and forbade them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages" between the 1880s and the end of the 20th century.
"I am proud to be collaborating with a talented First Nations artist to bring a sports jersey that all Canadians can take pride in," Bannerman said. "Anytime we can mix art, sport and charity together is a win."
The Raptors squad is currently opening its training camp in Victoria, B.C., before touring through Canada during the preseason ahead of its home opener on Oct. 19.
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