An Interview with McGill Football Alumnus Wayne McRae

Wayne McRae is a McGill football alumnus, who has been involved with the team for over thirty years. He first played for the team in the 80s while studying at McGill, then continued being involved with the team through coaching, and eventually dedicating himself to the organization Friends Of McGill Football. 

Recently, students brought the topic of the McGill Redmen name to the attention of the administration of McGill University and its possible impacts on the Indigenous community. Last semester, there was an overwhelming vote by students to change the name, and so discussions began. Up to this point, no decision has been made. I spoke with Wayne, who believes the Redmen name should be kept as it is . He spoke of his past and current experiences with the McGill football team, and elaborated more on the discussions going on behind the scenes regarding the Redmen name. 

 

His Experience Playing for the McGill Football Team

Wayne played for the McGill Redman football team from 1984 to 1987, was a captain on the team for the latter of the two years, and won the national championship in 1987. He reflected fondly back on this time, remarking “we far from expected to win the Vanier Cup that year, and we just got some momentum, and we were a very good team […] it felt all around amazing. It was the feeling of knowing I didn’t give up.” He contrasted winning the championship from winning an academic award, saying “What’s different about winning the national championship is that you’re winning a team award. The bond with the team cements itself for eternity.”

His Involvement in Friends of McGill Football

Wayne first started getting involved as an alumnus with the McGill football team a few years after graduating, coaching in 1993 and 1994. He said, “That’s what brought me tighter to the McGill community and then I started meeting the alumni who ran the Friends of McGill Football.” Wayne joined the non-profit organization in 1995, where he is now the president.

The mission of the group has changed since he first joined it. “Back in the 90s […] a big role of Friends of McGill Football was supporting the head coach, organizing fundraising and recruiting events.” Today, there are more coaches for the team, so the mission for the group has changed, where now “instead of being the administrative support background, we’re more the sort of social network background.” Some of the things they do include fundraising events as well as ensuring current players are connected to the alumni, so as to create a stronger bond between the two.

Discussing the Redmen Name

Wayne is on the side of the debate that believes the Redmen name should not be changed and gave his point of view as a former Redmen athlete and actively involved alumnus.

He remarked,

“We understand both sides of the equation. If you were simply introduced to the topic from the outside, I could see how there’s an automatic association of the name Redmen as being wrong and it should be changed. From the alumni’s side, if the name originated from Indigenous people, then I would say yes, that should be changed. […] It was founded based on back in the early 1900s, [where] it was common for [sports teams] to receive their name based on the colour of their jersey, and the McGill colour has always been red. It’s a name you get attached to and you make the effort of connecting to McGill when you’re playing varsity sports. It’s the name, as silly as it may sound. Part of our role in Friends of McGill Football is to get the alumni to stay connected to McGill. Our concern is that [the name itself] is a big piece of the puzzle. […] The alumni are very important in supporting the existence of the current team and its future. I know it’s probably wrong to cut ties with McGill if the name gets changed, but the reality is that could happen. If it does, it will hurt the team.”

The aim of the committee thus far has been to consider the origins of the name, its importance to the teams and alumni and the impacts of changing it, before immediately making any conclusive decisions.

He continued to describe that as an alumnus, along with his fellow alumni involved with the team

“Something always important to us is the well-being of the players and that is [our] main objective. I don’t make a dime off of [Friends of McGill Football]. The reason I dedicate time towards it is to give back to a system I was able to be part of. Our number one priority is making sure the players are getting the best experience they can while attending McGill as a student and a varsity athlete. If there was any conflict, meaning the players were not happy with something the coaches did […] or some players were getting preferential treatment, we would immediately intervene ourselves. In all my years of playing, there has never been a situation where there’s been a minority isolated or feel they are second tier. If anything, it has been people from many cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, religions, that have come together to form as one. That is the beauty of being in a team sport. That was the beauty of winning a national championship. […] [The name is] part of a hundred years of our history and it would be sad to see it go.”

Of course, no decision has been made regarding whether the name will be changed; we will have to be patient and await an announcement from the administration.

I firmly believe that in every situation with conflict, both sides should be given a platform to express their opinions and beliefs, regardless of my own personal opinions. Wayne McRae was kind enough to agree to this interview and while not everyone may agree with the points he has made, he is still someone who has dedicated himself to supporting the McGill football team over the past two decades, which is something to be admired.

 

 

Images Obtained From:

https://reporter.mcgill.ca/sept-4-redmen-versus-gaiters-football-home-opener/

http://mcgillnews.mcgill.ca/s/1762/news/interior.aspx?pgid=614&gid=2

https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/mcgill-puts-off-decision-on-changing-contentious-redmen-team-name-1.4275926