Diversity Is Strength Conversations: Asian Heritage Month

TORONTO – Victor Cui, the Edmonton Elks’ new president and CEO, is one of the most successful international sports executives in recent years and is no stranger to being in the public spotlight.

In 2010 Cui launched One Championship (MMA), which quickly became one of Asia’s largest sports media entities. Cui has also served as the senior director of event management for ESPN STAR Sports Singapore, additionally spending time serving as director of corporate communications for Golf Canada.

However, being in the public eye and being on a panel due to his ethnicity was a new and admittedly slightly uncomfortable experience for him.

“Today I think the conversation has changed a little bit where it’s not only about just getting together it’s about we suddenly have this platform to talk about it, where everyone else wants to listen, or has to listen or there’s a desire to listen and it’s moved up on the agenda. So, quite honestly, that is still something that’s a little bit uncomfortable for me,” Cui told Donnovan Bennett in CFL.ca’s latest Diversity is Strength Conversations episode.

“Even this panel is something that I feel a little bit uncomfortable with because I’ve never had the opportunity to speak on a platform based primarily first because of my ethnicity.”

» Learn more about Diversity is Strength Conversations
» Diversity is Strength conversations: Black History Month
» Diversity is Strength conversations: International Women’s Day 

Victor Cui was named the Edmonton Elks’ president and CEO on Jan. 25, 2022 (Photo: GoElks.com)

While Cui does embrace his Filipino heritage, he holds an expansive view on the topic of diversity in sport and more specifically, diversity in football. For Cui the topic of diversity reaches far beyond the constructs of race or colour.

“The question is not to me about how do we just diversify and bring in different people of ethnicity. It’s How do we make this product something that appeals to what Canadians love and what a Canadian looks like. And that’s the product that we have to build because it’s not about attracting a younger white person or a younger Chinese person or a younger Japanese or Filipino. It’s about how are we attracting this younger Canadian? Because I can tell you my kids and that generation, the conversations that they start with isn’t about colour and race,” explained Cui.

“They get it, and those conversations are there. They’re moving topics into way more sophisticated conversations than I had when I was a 12-year-old boy. They’re talking about gender issues, LGBTQ2+ issues, they’re talking about things that are in their mind that are beyond the colour of your skin. So, that’s where I’m excited about of where our league can go and the kind of changes that we can do. How are we building a product that reaches all new Canadians?”

Les Maruo won a Grey Cup as a rookie with the Blue Bombers last season, after being selected in the CFL’s 2021 Global Draft (Bluebombers.com)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ linebacker Les Maruo faced his own battles with discrimination, hearing all of the possible stereotypes as a young student-athlete growing up in Kansas.

“That kind of stuff always made me work harder, because I wanted to be normal. I didn’t want to have an accent, because Asian accents are always kind of made fun of very easily and I didn’t really like those stereotypes of Asians not being good at sports and they’re just good at math,” said Maruo. “So, I always wanted to break those stereotypes and I was wanting to be the strongest in a weight room, the fastest, so you know that stuff didn’t matter, and I can just fit in.”

The impact and longevity of Bryan Chiu in the CFL are undeniable. He had a 13-year career with the Montreal Alouettes, was a three-time Grey Cup champion, a seven-time CFL All-Star and was named 2002’s most outstanding offensive linemen. But Chiu’s most impactful football legacy may be in his current role as the head coach for his alma matter, Vancouver College.

“I’m coaching now, it’s providing for these youth an opportunity to just enjoy the game. For them to look at football as not necessarily a colour barrier, but it’s very inclusive,” said Chiu. “Our football team here at Vancouver College, I mean close to half of the players are Asian. So, it’s just I guess for them to be able to see me and see that if I can do it, they can do it too.”

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Asian Heritage in the CFL | ‘Diversity is Strength Conversations’

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