Chris Getzlaf wants see bullying come to an end.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders all-star slotback was at Westview School in Estevan on March 7 through the Canadian Red Cross' Beyond the Hurt initiative. He was sporting a pink shirt with the Riders' logo, since the pink shirt has become a symbol for anti-bullying initiatives.
He said it was nice to see so many students wearing pink shirts or Rider gear.
Getzlaf has been to numerous schools in Saskatchewan through the Red Cross to discuss bullying, harassment and safer schools for students. He told the youth that he has been a bully, he was bullied in his school days, and he has been a bystander – watching as others were picked on.
“We want to empower the bystander,” Getzlaf said. “We want the bystander to be able to step into any situation and befriend the person, the victim, in order to build positive relationships with everybody, rather than negative relationships.”
Bullies usually act out because they're seeking attention, he said. Bystanders often watch or even laugh at the victim; Getzlaf believes people need to stand up for and befriend the victims, and break the cycle.
He drew from a short children's book, Say Something, to show students what happens when somebody reaches out to a peer who is teased and mocked.
Eighty-seven per cent of bullying happens when somebody else is present, he said.
“How often does bullying happen? Once every seven seconds in hallways, and once every 25 minutes in the classrooms,” said Getzlaf.
Getzlaf said he was bullied because he was only 5'6” when he was 16 years old. Most of the teasing was connected to his size.
“My size, stature and physical attributes were all smaller,” Getzlaf said. “(I heard) 'You're too small to play football' and 'You're never going to make it' and 'It's too rough a sport for someone your size.'”
He said he wasn't taunted to the same degree as others, though, because he could outrun most of the bullies.
Getzlaf also discussed the Red Cross' involvement in anti-bullying and anti-harassment endeavours through its Respect Ed program; the different types of bullying and harassment, including cyber bullying; and the different rights and responsibilities that people have.
The Riders have become strong proponents in the fight against bullying in recent years, Getzlaf said, and several players are travelling the province to speak to students
Getzlaf also discussed his football career; his experiences as a Regina native playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders; and his interactions with his brother, Ryan, who is one of the premier players in the NHL. And he answered questions and signed autographs for the students.