Landry: Fine, Evans proud to cross paths on T&R weekend
BC Lions’ quarterback Dane Evans can see the poetic significance of his team meeting the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night in Vancouver, when the Lions present their annual Orange Shirt Day Game.
That’s because the last time these teams met at BC Place on July 22, both Evans and Saskatchewan quarterback Mason Fine were on the field for their respective clubs. They did much more than represent their football teams that night, however. It is the only time that anyone can remember quarterbacks of Indigenous lineage squaring off against each other in a CFL game.
“To circle back now just one day before Truth and Reconciliation Day, I think that’s awesome,” said Evans this week, noting the meaning of he and Fine crossing professional paths once again.
» Diversity is Strength: Conversations and much more
» Diversity is Strength Conversations: Reconciliation through sport
» CFL teams recognize the need for Truth and Reconciliation
» Subscribe to the CFL’s newsletter for exclusive offers and league updates
Back in Week 7, Fine was QB1 for the Roughriders, making his first start after an injury to Trevor Harris the previous week. Evans stepped on the field when Lions’ starter Vernon Adams was injured during the first quarter of that match-up with Saskatchewan and the two would lead their teams for the next three quarters. In the end, Evans and the Lions were triumphant by a score of 19-9.
This time around, Evans and Fine will not be facing one another in the competitive sense. Fine is back in the Saskatchewan line-up after suffering his own injury a few weeks ago, but Jake Dolegala has been entrenched since then as the Riders’ starter. It is possible that Fine could see some action. But Evans injured his back during warm-ups prior to the Lions’ Week 16 game in Edmonton, and though he remained hopeful that he would be in the line-up for the Orange Shirt Day Game, the Lions placed him on the six-game injured list this week.
The two, you’d have to assume, will still share a conversation about their previous rendezvous with football history and the similar journeys that have taken them from their shared home state of Oklahoma to pro football north of the border.
Fine and Evans agree that Truth and Reconciliation and events such as Orange Shirt Day have been and continue to be positive steps in the cultivating of understanding.
NOTE: The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation describes Truth and Reconciliation Week as a week that “focuses on learning and commemorating Indigenous history, culture, language and the ongoing legacy of residential schools from Survivors, Elders and Knowledge Keepers.” The Five Calls To Action regarding sport and reconciliation can be found here.
“It’s the day to to reconcile and remember,” said Fine, “and then educate people and move forward in a positive direction. Striving to keep moving in the right direction. And I think we’re doing that and it’s a good thing.”
“Up until five, six years ago,” added Evans, “people really didn’t know what it (Truth and Reconciliation) was or even what a residential school was.
“You’re recognizing something that was very, very bad and something that should never happen again to any group of people,” continued the Lions’ quarterback. “But I do think it’s awesome that we are learning from this and growing from this and bringing some attention to a topic that was just kind of hush-hush for a long, long time.”
Both Fine and Evans know they are role models and both have done much to honour their commitment to community building, whether it is in the vein of giving back to the cities they presently call home, or in ensuring the voices of Indigenous Peoples are clearly heard and understood.
“You want to do good with the platform that you have at being a professional athlete and being Indigenous,” said Fine, who traces his lineage to the Cherokee Nation. “You have a platform, and you have people looking up to you so you want to take full advantage of that and try to make an impact in a good way for your hometown, your communities or your tribe back home.
“This game is more than just what happens on the field,” he added.
Evans, whose own lineage courses through the Wichita And Affiliated Tribes, endorses events like the Orange Shirt Day Game and says it’s the kind of event that can help further the cause of Truth and Reconciliation. He knows because he’s seen it happen.
“What I think is cool about it is whenever my teammates and guys on other teams come up to me and ask me about you know, ‘What does this mean? What was a residential school? Why are we wearing orange?’ I think that’s the coolest stuff to me and none of that would happen if (the Lions) didn’t take the initiative to start this kind of day that we’re doing.”
Evans has been making his way through his own journey of education and understanding. In 2021, while a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, he made a point of researching the histories of local Indigenous Peoples for the cities the Ticats were visiting. He posted what he’d learned about local cultures on his Instagram account.
“Even now, a couple years later when we travel, I always pull it up and just kind of give myself that mental refresher,” said Evans.
The Lions’ dedication to Truth and Reconciliation reaches beyond a night when the team will have its players wear orange warm-up jerseys, to be raffled off afterward in support of Indigenous communities.
“Last week, we had Dom Rhymes and Andrew Peirson go to one of the schools just down the road here and put on a kind of a little event/fun day/clinic thing for some Indigenous youth and that was cool to see,” said Evans. “Our team does a lot of great things like that.”
The Roughriders are similarly motivated, said Fine.
“The football club has been doing a lot of great things. They try to get me out into First Nations communities. They try to use my platform to make a positive impact on the First Nations.
“I feel very connected to it,” he said.
As he does to that night back in July, when he and Evans became — almost certainly — the only Indigenous quarterbacks to square off in a CFL game.
“The historic moment is really neat,” said Fine. “It’s something to be proud of. You know, we are role models to a lot of communities and a lot of kids that maybe want to go and achieve something that they really want to achieve.
“So it’s really special to be a part of that.”
THOSE BEAUTIFUL LOGOS
View this post on Instagram
Most CFL teams have introduced First Nations-inspired editions of their logos over the last few years,
“I think it’s so cool that the league is getting behind this,” said Evans of the initiative. “It’s awesome for those Native artists that get to express their ideas and the art they want to bring to life. And the fact that we’re giving them that opportunity to do that. I think it’s really awesome.”
Evans, of course, loves the Lions’ Indigenous-styled logo and he expressed admiration for the Ticats’ as well.
Recently, a new alternate logo was introduced by the Calgary Stampeders, one that resonates with Evans for personal reasons.
“I really like the Calgary one because I grew up on a farm and having paint horses that were painted up like that,” he said. “I think they did a great job with the designs on it.”