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I spoke out about racism at the 1996 Games, when it was not cool. I thought that because I was used to being in the boardroom and had grown up around successful people of all cultures, when I was asked about racism as an athlete in Atlanta, I could answer that question honestly. Unfortunately, I was blackballed. Some people in the non-racialized community thought I was just an athlete. I don’t know if I’ve faced systemic racism as an entrepreneur, though, because I’ve bankrolled most of my projects myself. I’ve never gone to a bank to borrow money—either I’ve had my own or I’ve had great partners.

This is what I tell all entrepreneurs, especially Black ones: Networking is the greatest asset you can have. You must get outside your comfort zone and reach out to successful people. As a sprinter, I wanted to be the very best in the world. I felt the same way about business. So I’ve always sought out the most successful people—in Toronto, London, Singapore, New York City, Silicon Valley—and asked simple questions. As the student, there’s no question I can ask that’s stupid. The late John Bitove Sr. is one of the people I spent a lot of time with—he always said I was like his son, and he answered any questions I wanted answered. If there’s a successful person who has time for me, then I will absolutely learn from them.

Any time I hear about racism raising its ugly head—and with Rodney King and George Floyd, people were filming and reporting on it—my thought is obviously to encourage people to vote, to get into politics and speak out. But my father always said the greatest way to combat racism is to work hard and be successful. That’s the example I’ve lived by. I always say that if you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get the desired result. The first thing is you have to find passion in what you’re doing. Two, do your research. Three, you’ve got to be disciplined. If I’m trying to raise money, my entire focus will be on that. And I’m gonna go around you, over you, under you—or, if you’re standing in my way, I’m gonna go through you. If I encounter racism along the way, that’s something I’ll deal with later on. It’s like if my focus is on the 100 metres, I’m not going to be worried about a race I lost along the way. My goal is to actually be in the race. If I want to win, I have to be participating.

The last thing, and this is probably most important, is to reach out to the people who can guide you. Because they’ve been there before, and it makes the path easier for you to reach your own goals.

I’m generally an optimistic guy. We’re actually having conversations about racism today. Protests are happening. Companies are making measures for change. There is government and corporate involvement. If we want racialized people to be in the boardroom, then business leaders have to get them into those rooms and ask questions. It is our job to listen, to understand their journey, to know where they’re coming from and where they’re going. At least we’re moving onward and upward.

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