Canadian receiver Chris Osei-Kusi working to help black voices be heard on, off the football field

Photo courtesy: University of Windsor Athletics

Canadian receiver Chris Osei-Kusi has been hard at work this off-season.

On top of training for the season and working as a research assistant at Windsor’s Faculty of Law, the receiver recently joined the executive of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA).

The BLSA is a student-run non-profit that was founded in 1991. The organization strives to support and enhance academic and professional opportunities for black law students in both official languages on a national level.

“Working with the BLSA was a no-brainer for me,” Osei-Kusi told 3DownNation.

“I have always wanted to advocate for change — whether that’s for athletes or minorities. As a law student, an athlete, and a person of colour, I have all these resources that allow me to help people.”

Osei-Kusi’s title with the BLSA is Director of Advocacy. His primary role is to analyze how different legal institutions operate and help black voices be heard.

“Black voices haven’t always been involved in the legal process. For that reason, a lot of black people haven’t felt like part of the conversation. We’re trying to change that and show the black community that law school can be for them and that their voices matter,” Osei-Kusi said.

The BLSA has 16 regional chapters across Canada, six of which are in Ontario. The receiver is responsible for communicating with them and providing guidance when needed.

The Brampton native feels the abilities he’s developed as a football player will help him achieve success in his new role.

“In football you learn so many transferable skills that never get taken away from you — time management, collaboration, and communication are all things that will help you be successful. These are all things I learned in football, but I can use to achieve success in a number of other pursuits,” Osei-Kusi said.

Racial inequality has dominated the headlines since the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Several players have spoken out regarding racism over the past week, including James Wilder Jr. and Nate Behar.

“With the current political climate that we’re in, black voices are being amplified. This is a great time to build bridges and bring people together in a cooperative, progressive manner,” Osei-Kusi said.

Osei-Kusi founded Switch Mentality in January 2020, an organization that strives to help athletes achieve success outside of sports. He has worked with U Sports and CFL players on pursuing success in multiple areas — athletic or otherwise. One of the people Osei-Kusi has sought for guidance is Jock Climie, the retired CFL player and broadcaster who works as a lawyer with Emond Harnden LLP in Ottawa.

Osei-Kusi feels that Switch Mentality reinforces the message and values of the BLSA.

“The possibility of not having a football season this year made me feel lost, so I started exploring what my identity was outside of football,” Osei-Kusi said.

”I want to help people realize that it’s great to be an athlete, but being an athlete allows you to pursue so many different avenues in life. I think that message is important for everyone, but especially the black community.”

Osei-Kusi was one of the top performers at the CFL’s national combine in 2019, running an excellent 4.47 forty-yard dash. The Cleveland Browns flew him in for one of their mini-camps, though he wasn’t offered a contract.

The Brampton native was selected by the Montreal Alouettes in the fourth round of last year’s receiver-heavy CFL draft class. The team sent him back to school for the 2020 season, though Osei-Kusi was in the process of transferring from Queen’s to Windsor for his final year of U Sports eligibility.

The six-foot-two, 200-pounder made 34 catches for 560 yards and two touchdowns with the Lancers in 2019. In 35 career U Sports games, Osei-Kusi caught 160 passes for 2,422 yards and ten scores.

The 22-year-old signed back with the Als in January 2020 and is hoping to make the active roster following his second professional training camp. Osei-Kusi has spent the off-season training with linebacker Nakas Onyeka (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and defensive back Godfrey Onyeka (Edmonton).

Osei-Kusi intends to play in the CFL during the summer and fall, then attend law school during the winter semester. With his first year at Windsor already complete, he is on pace to graduate in May 2023.

Until then, he will continue working to empower the black community on the local and national level.

“Anytime I can help shift the perception of black people, that’s something I want to be involved in.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.