Former McMaster Marauders receiver Ezy Mboko could express himself on the field.
But it was a completely different feeling behind the scenes.
“Years and years of racial slurs being reported to the higher-ups, no one’s doing anything. So it would have to take violence for them to understand OK, oh, this was bothering them,” Mboko said.
Current head coach Stefan Ptaszek recruited Mboko to join the Marauders in 2014 and he graduated after last season. Ptaszek rose to prominence as a bench boss from 2006 through the 2015 season at Mac and returned to lead the football program to a Yates Cup championship in 2019.
“I’m so glad that these student-athletes are comfortable enough to come out, even though some of the stuff they’re going to say is going to obviously be unflattering,” Ptaszek said.
During four seasons on the field Mboko made 14 catches for 129 yards and scored one touchdown. The five-foot-10, 185-pound pass catcher felt there was a culture at McMaster which undermined the black athletes.
“There are a lot of kids on the team who are known for saying racist things. Every black football player you can ask that went to Mac, will tell you that’s how it’s always been,” Mboko said.
Former offensive and defensive lineman Chris Adeneye experienced racism first-hand by group text following a team banquet which the black team members did not attend in 2017. At the time, Ptaszek was coaching in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Greg Knox was head coach. Knox held that position from 2016 until 2018 when he was fired in October of that year.
“I’m getting notifications and then I stumble upon one and I see the phrase a**hole sniffing ***lets. Sorry for my wording but that’s the exact phrasing,” Adeneye said.
Adeneye played his high school football at Bishop Reding in Milton and originally went to Simon Fraser to begin his university career. He transferred to McMaster for the 2014 campaign and finished playing following the 2016 season. However, Adeneye, Mboko and other former black Marauders don’t have fond memories of their time on the Hamilton campus.
“I never went to any of the banquets too because I always felt like an outcast,” Mboko said. “If a coach is vocal about that and saying OK, this it not OK, that’s when you know that’s a good human being.”
Ptaszek attended a Black Lives Matter rally in May in downtown Hamilton and he’s been learning from his black players. Since the outburst of tweets, the 49-year-old coach has been in touch with a number of individuals voicing concerns.
“Social media is a wonderful way to bring light to it, but then if you want to make change, it’s one-on-one, and face-to-face, and continual dialogue,” Ptaszek said.
“Listening to our student-athletes talk about some of the challenges of navigating their worlds with racism, it’s altered my perspective.”
McMaster has committed to undergoing a review of the black student-athlete experience, led by an external advisor. It will explore to what extent racist beliefs, comments, and behaviours have been present within Marauder Athletics. The goal of the review is to take concrete action to strengthen a culture of equity and inclusivity.
“Put yourself in our shoes for a second, you understand, the things we go through,” Mboko said with tears in his eyes. “Maybe you’d understand why it hurts so much.”