Carrying the torch forward: An interview with Justine Jones

(Courtesy of Justine Jones, edited by Riddhi Jani)

The Jones family are a pride and joy of the York Lions, and their legacy extends beyond their decorated careers as athletes.

Paul Jones is a legend himself, being inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.  His children are now carrying the torch forward — particularly Justine Jones, a former volleyball player for the Lions. Having only recently joined the ranks within York alumni, Justine is building an important place for herself within the sporting world. 

According to Justine, the key is to be a part of different experiences within an industry because that alone brings you one step closer to where you want to be — the additional padding on your resume doesn’t hurt either. 

Currently, Justine works as a media relations coordinator for the Toronto Raptors, alongside her father who is a broadcaster for the team. The dynamic father-daughter duo was evident in their installment of the ‘Black Excellence and Grit’ conference they hosted on January 18.  

It was Justine and Paul’s camaraderie together that allowed all the participants to become comfortable and open in discussions regarding gender, sports, and race— and because of the nature of the topics being discussed, there was not one person taking the metaphorical wheel throughout the conversations. 

For example, when the time came to talk about women in sports, specifically Black women, Paul stepped back and Justine talked about the progress made and the road ahead. 

“Representation matters. When you have diversity in the newsroom, you get more perspectives behind a story,” says Justine. For her, this means that there needs to be a change in the behind-the-scenes hiring that is being done. 

“The more equitable and fairer we can make mainstream media, the more coverage we can provide on stories within minorities,” she says.

Regarding Black History Month, Justine agrees there is a need to amplify Black voices. However, she also believes that the momentum should be carried onto the remaining months as well. 

“2020 was a trying year for us as a community. However, it was also a time where people really saw the realities of what Black and Indigenous men and women have been going through for thousands and thousands of years.” 

“For everyone who was distressed during 2020 and after George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered, they didn’t really know what to do and I think that this is actionable. The first step is educating yourself and there’s no better time than Black History Month to educate yourself,” Justine continues. 

“When you hear upsetting news, you do feel hopeless. However, I also believe within recent years there has been a lot of progression, from trans inclusion in the Olympics to the all-woman broadcast on TSN.”

Justine believes that holding on to these moments of progress helps in dealing with hurt and disappointment — it is these moments that remind everyone the true reason why we love sports.

Interestingly, discussions regarding Black culture are difficult to navigate through for Justine, on account of her being biracial, saying that “growing up, I felt like I was routinely excluded from the narrative of both the communities I am a part of — too white for the Black group and too Black for the white group.”

According to Justine, it was not until she became a Lion that she found a community of people from different backgrounds who accepted her the way she is. While she acknowledges her own privilege as not being subjected to the microaggressions her father experienced, Justine believes this has only created a stronger bond between them.  

Following in her family’s footsteps, Justine is carving a place of her own within the sporting world at her own pace and through her own merit. “Throughout the entire process of me getting involved with different organizations and then eventually working for the Raptors, I did not use my dad’s name to open any doors.”

She believes this to be the reason why she gravitated towards volleyball, as it was a sport she could call her own. And even as she transitioned towards adulthood, she wanted to be able to create her own identity.

Justine’s cheery disposition and relentless optimism in the face of what seems like an insurmountable challenge is perhaps what the world needs a bit more of right now. 

About the Author

By Maryam Nihal

Former Editor

Maryam is a fourth-year student majoring in Kinesiology and Health Science. She's a huge fan of anything sports related, but loves to explore the sports realm beyond the stats and the numbers. When she’s not fielding calls from ESPN, you can find her studying, re-watching Crash Landing on You, and listen to the Taylor’s Version albums — all at the same time.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments