February serves as Black History Month, and the NLL showed their support over the month by sharing stories of the league’s Black athletes. Now February is over, but the movement doesn’t stop. It is important to share these stories year round so that fans, other athletes and staff can have a greater understanding of the inequality, and injustice that occurs in our world.
Although these devastating injustices create hardship, there are some athletes who choose to take a stand and try to create change on their own. New York Riptide defenseman Damon Edwards has gone through his fairshare of facing inequality, but instead of letting those experiences bring him down, he chooses perseverance.
Edwards has had a lacrosse stick in his hands since he was three years old when he started with the Toronto Beaches organization. Throughout his minor and even junior career he had to cope with being different, and being treated differently because of that.
“We know lacrosse is known as a white sport, and I was often the only Black kid on my team,” Edwards said. “It was tough at times. I received racism from other teams and even referees, but I was always so grateful for my teammates because they never saw me as anything less than another guy on the team.”
Edwards knew that he could always confide in his teammates, and ended up playing with some of those guys all throughout his minor and junior career. It was during his junior career with the Beaches when he realized he wanted to focus on taking his lacrosse career to the next level.
Edwards was also an exceptional football player and was quite torn on which sport to continue with. After receiving scholarship offers for lacrosse, Edwards took his career further at Brock University while playing Junior A with Toronto.
“It was a difficult decision to choose,” Edwards said. “But I loved the game of lacrosse and everything it had given me despite the adversity and that’s when I realized I wanted to put everything I had back into this sport.”
Edwards did just that as he was drafted to the Toronto Rock 31st overall in the 2009 NLL draft. Though he has had a tremendous NLL career thus far, the work he has done off the floor is even more spectacular.
He believes strongly in educating our youth in order to create a better world for everyone. That’s why Edwards started Damon45, a program to promote learning, understanding, and uniting everyone to create a more equal world.
“I’ve always been fully involved in inclusivity and diversity,” Edwards said. “As a coach I see kids hurting and know from my past experiences how much it hurts. I wanted to give kids the strength and knowledge to know that they are not alone, and more importantly that they matter just as much as the next kid.”
The Damon45 program involves Edwards going into schools across Toronto and talking about his experiences, what racial inequality is, but most importantly teaching kids the power of their words. Edwards knows that these kids have the ability to be heroes with their words, it just takes teaching them how to do so. Another large part of this program is getting into inner cities and underprivileged communities to give them hope.
“It is so important that kids see someone that looks like them to give them a bit of hope,” Edwards said. “I want these kids to know that no matter where they come from or what they look like, they can be successful.”
Edwards is a born giver. Along with his program, he is also a firefighter in the city of Pickering and the Director of Athletic Performance/Coach with the Toronto Beaches organization. He pours his heart and soul into his community in order to make it a better place.
The Riptide are not only fortunate to have him on our roster as an athlete, but also as a person. It’s one thing to be a phenomenal athlete, but another to give right back to the grassroots and inspire change for generations to come.