There’s a new Toronto Raptors-themed jersey, infused with a touch of Indigenous artistry, hitting the market.
Two local artists and the team’s point guard Fred VanVleet have collaborated for a design of an Indigenous-inspired Raptors jersey, with its release Friday on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Renowned designer and illustrator Casey Bannerman and artist Mike Ivall from the Chippewas of Georgina Island say the reimagined 1995 Raptors jersey is meant to reflect the way Indigenous art interacts with the sports community. Created in a woodland art style, the new jersey features the Ojibwe word “Giiwedin,” which means “North,” on the front.
In addition to inspiring important reflection and conversation about the country’s reconciliation process, the collaboration will use proceeds from sales of the $165 jersey to support the Orange Shirt Society, a non-profit organization that supports Indian Residential School Reconciliation.
“This project gives me a sense of pride, both for my city and my heritage,” said Ivall, known in the artistic circles as Big Nish.
Based in Toronto, Ivall has worked for years on various sports projects involving designs for the Argonauts, Maple Leafs, Buffalo Bills and others. Always an avid basketball fan, he said the inspiration to create this jersey peaked after the Raptors won the 2019 NBA championship.
“I thought it would be cool to see my culture in the Raptors logo, so I indigenized it in the woodland art style,” he said. “My art is my personal healing journey. It allows me to learn language and teachings that I never had growing up.”
Bannerman has worked with a number of Raptors including VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell.
Forever intrigued by Indigenous art and its place in society, he thought it would be meaningful to collaborate with an artist from the Indigenous community on a project that would honour their culture within sports while at the same time supporting a worthy cause.
“The depiction of Indigenous people within sports, with regards to logos and names and mascots, has been less than favourable,” he said, referring to some of the recent controversies around the Washington football team, Cleveland baseball team and others.
Bannerman said the Raptors and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment have been at the forefront of honouring and promoting social causes, particularly within the Indigenous community, and showing support to such artistic works would be consequential. He also praised VanVleet for being “hands on” and for his dedication to the project.
“It’s almost hard to imagine that he’s that good at basketball and also so involved in all these other things,” Bannerman said.