Hal Johnson is addressing the origins of “Body Break”.
In a new video posted to the fitness show’s YouTube channel, Johnson reveals “Body Break” was “started to combat racism.”
He explained that it all started in 1988 when he went to TSN wanting to be a sports reporter. He was initially hired, but then things took a turn.
“At 2 o’clock that afternoon, I got a phone call and he said sorry, but the higher-ups said because I’m Black and they already had Mark Jones… they don’t want to have two black reporters,” Johnson recalled. “I was obviously very disappointed.”
After meeting his partner Joanne McLeod, the two went back to TSN with a pitch for a series idea that would become “Body Break”.
The network apparently loved the idea but raised concerns about having a Black man partnered with a white woman on the air, offering to produce the show if he were replaced with a white man.
Finally, Johnson and McLeod approached Participaction and got the show off the ground.
“Without TSN inspiring me to go that route, without the racism that they displayed, without the racism of June 8, 1988, by that client at Woodbine Racetrack, all those little things created ‘Body Break’.”
Johnson added, “We’re happy to have hopefully given health and fitness tips to Canadians for 32 years, but also enlightened you that we can all live, work and play together, regardless of our ability, disability, or skin colour.”
On Tuesday, TSN responded to Johnson’s account with an apology on social media.
“We apologize to Hal Johnson for the racism he experienced at TSN beginning in 1988,” the network began.
— TSN PR (@TSN_PR) June 16, 2020
While detailing his journey with ET Canada’s Morgan Hoffman, Johnson reveals he has no ill will towards TSN.
“At first, they didn’t need to do it, I was surprised,” explains Johnson of their apology. “I am not a victim, I hold no bitterness.
“It was just something that one person wasn’t prejudiced or racist, they were afraid. They were afraid to make a decision out of the norm.”
After releasing the four-minute YouTube video, Johnson and his wife were shocked by the positive response, telling Hoffman, “Joanne was reading a lot of the comments and she started to tear up.”
“People were opening up to us about their experiences and what ‘Body Break’ meant to them as a minority seeing a mixed-race couple and seeing someone of colour constantly on television. It made them feel good.”
Watch our full interview with Johnson below.