Within the silliness of #sockgate the CFL has some real issues

Here’s the biggest takeaway from Sportsnet reporter and occasional 3DownNation columnist Arash Madani’s piece on the CFL fining more than 20 players for sock-related uniform violations during the Grey Cup:

Are we really going to call it #sockgate?

Apparently we are because it would appear this story has – and let me apologize for this in advance – legs. It’s already caused a TSN radio personality to fire back and led to the latest in a series of mildly entertaining Twitter skirmishes between Madani and CFL director of communications Paulo Senra.

Reaction from the hardcore CFL Twitterati has been predictable enough: to slam Madani for his supposed bias against the league. This is a common refrain every time Madani – an employee of Sportsnet, blood nemesis to CFL rights holder TSN – offers up any criticism of the league whatsoever.

That Madani has worked for two teams and has written some excellent pieces for 3Down usually goes without recognition: as per usual, the focus is only on the negative. While I don’t always agree with the tone of Madani’s criticism, most leagues have outspoken critics or ones who prefer to use a sharp stick to make their point. Certainly a big boy league like the CFL should be able to take one, largely Twitter-based voice of dissent.

Focusing on the messenger instead of the message – which I just spent two paragraphs doing, smh – is to miss a couple of key points here.

While it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that we’re talking about socks, for crying out loud, the story follows the larger narrative – fair or not – that the league is focused on the wrong things. While I didn’t necessarily agree with the decision to tie the uniform violations and the recent flap over the commissioner’s comments on concussions in the opening paragraph of the story, the point is reasonable enough: the league is focused on picking out drapes and curtains for a building that may or may not be on fire.

Like it or not, the CFL has some very real problems: officiating, replay, concussions, TV viewership, attendance in places like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. The Great Grey Cup Pizza Giveaway looks even more damning in light of TFC selling out the MLS Cup in less time then it would take to order a pizza, never mind get it delivered.

There was precious little acknowledgement of any of these issues in Jeffery Orridge’s recent state-of-the-league address during Grey Cup week, which seemed relentless in its touting of shiny baubles like website views (without any real numbers) or social media engagements. The foray into concussions – where he stated the league’s position was that there was no definitive link between football and CTE – was just the thing that garnered all the headlines.

The CFL needs to make it clear to fans, the media and the general sporting audience that it understands the myriad of challenges it’s facing and that it has a clear plan for dealing with those challenges. Until it does, it will vulnerable to things like #sockgate.

The other interesting element to the #sockgate story was the CFLPA’s willingness to not only speak out on it but to formulate a thoughtful and cohesive message. The union’s communications strategy for much of the time that I’ve covered the league has vacillated between kinda decent to full-on train wreck, including a recent period when it was virtually impossible to get a former union president to return a phone call.

That appears to have changed under recently-hired executive director Brian Ramsay and new president Jeff Keeping. Their first ever Grey Cup week press conference focused on union initiatives and player safety, then got a gift when Orridge open the door on concussions: they rightfully drove a truck through it.

The messaging from Ramsay and Keeping in the #sockgate story echoed the idea the league has its priorities wrong and emphasized that communication between the CFL and its players is sorely lacking – a message they also stressed during the concussion discussion in November. If a newly organized and focused CFLPA is going to hold the league accountable for his decision-making, then that’s something else that Orridge now has to worry about: fans will generally side with players right up to the moment they want to go on strike.

The real lessons of #sockgate aren’t about socks at all. But like a little hole at the tip of the big toe, what starts as a minor irritant can soon become something truly uncomfortable.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1392 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

34 Comments on Within the silliness of #sockgate the CFL has some real issues

  1. Missing the point of why some of us are upset w/Arash – he usually does stir up negative stories on the CFL. He didn’t need to post anything about the fines. Players are always fined for uniform violations – nothing new about it. Also, CFLPA shldn’t have made the silly comment they did as they agreed in the CBA to the uniform. Just Arash stirring it up & trying to tie it to concussions. 2 whole different stories. The CFL does need to do more about looking after the players but it has nil to do with SOCKS!

  2. This site had gone down hill.

    • They’d might as well just add the tagline ‘CFL football, and why it sucks?’ 3downnation has you covered for all your CFL hating needs!

  3. Lindsay Wilcox // December 8, 2016 at 7:40 pm //

    I’m sure both sides, AND we fans, have far more important concerns.
    Please put a sock in it.

  4. Gretchen, stop trying to make Arash Madani happen. He’s not going to happen.

  5. I’d agree with Madani’s critics, if this was just a matter of some silliness being afoot, or if he was the sole source of dissent.

    But puns aside, the CFL does have big issues to deal with and it’s not outwardly apparent that they’re doing much to find solutions (and never mind finding solutions, but to simply communicate to the fans and stakeholders that they acknowledge those issues and are developing plans to deal with them).

    It’s time for Orridge and the CFL head office to pull up their collective you-know-whats and show us that they’re on top of things. Because right now, their approach is full of holes.

    • Terry Baxter // December 10, 2016 at 10:27 am //

      Perhaps, there are no solutions to dwindling fan support. Drew hits the nail on the head with his comment about MLS selling out their championship game in Toronto in like a half hour, while the GC could give tickets away. CFL TV ratings are down, attendance is down, and not just in the three spots Drew identified. Tiger cat fans can lie to themselves as much as they like but THF is NOT sold out every game. If in a city the size of Hamilton, and oh yes, given the team is as Young said a regional team drawing on some 1.5 million people, cannot sell 24,000 seats then we must agree that interest in football is indeed small.

      • Terry Baxter // December 10, 2016 at 11:01 am //

        And TSN. Radio ratings in Hamilton are a disaster too. I’m sure that plug will be pulled soon too. We can only hope that CHML will step in and broadcast the games when that happens. Not much interest in football in this area

      • “Perhaps there are no solutions to dwindling fan support”? Give your head a shake. I’m glad you’re not running the league. The solutions are out there; they just need to be found. (And I’m not saying I have them…but that’s why I’m not running the league either.)

        Things change. Attendance and ratings go up and down. Just because they’re “down” now doesn’t mean they’ll never go up. Does the CFL have lots of work to do? Absolutely…but things have also been way worse in the past.

        • Terry Baxter // December 14, 2016 at 10:37 am //

          Lmao. League has been trying to fix this since the 80s. So given that no solution has been found, it is safe to say that pro football is dying especially in southern ontario. Once TSN contract is up, you will then see that the end is near.

  6. Emptythe Trash // December 8, 2016 at 9:38 pm //

    Madani is just nothing more than scum of the Earth. He takes a nothing story about socks and deliberately attempts to spin it in typical political fashion.

    Why should anybody who wants the CFL to remain in existence support somebody who does everything in his power to tarnish the reputation and even destroy the league?

    I know Drew Edwards doesn’t stand up to Kent Austin when Austin embarrasses him in front of other members of the media. He could at least stand up for his own site and get rid of this Trash by telling him to take a hike.

    • Edwards allowing Madani to peddle his garbage on this website is akin to allowing the fox straight into the hen house.

    • Terry Baxter // December 10, 2016 at 11:07 am //

      Madani is just calling it as it is. This league is in deep trouble. Anyone who thinks otherwise is in deep denial. half empty stadiums throughout the league, TV ratings down, face the facts people!!!

  7. Now 3DN is running entire articles trying to defend Madani. SMH, indeed. Arash is reminding me of Marty York a bit -alienate everyone you are reporting on with cheap articles like “Sockgate”, then complain nobody will return your calls.

    If I am in the CFL office and asked to comment on an upcoming scoop on red versus black socks in the Grey Cup, I probably don’t return that call first either.

    • Madani is basically saying that if he doesn’t get his personal responses from the league spokesman in a timely manner befitting a man of his importance have then he’ll just spew whatever garbage spin he wants whenever he wants. And furthermore Paulo Senra is well aware that whatever answers he gives Madani will always be spun in the most negative light anyways. I would’ve given up responding to Madani ages ago if I were at the league office. The guy hates our league so why help him destroy it!

  8. NFLDTiCatsfan // December 8, 2016 at 9:53 pm //

    I can’t pay any attention to a story Madani has been part of, regardless of the argument, general consensus, real issues highlighted, or virtually anything else. Heck, I love the Jays more than anything except my family, and I can barely bring myself to watch the games knowing I’m helping ratings he’ll just brag about later having beat the CFL.

    Tone and intent matter. Maybe his tone and choice of topic works overall, I don’t know. I just know I hate reading his articles so much I’ve stopped, and when he’s on TV, I change the channel no matter what.

  9. Fans have no confidence in Jeff Orridge. He’s a huge part of the problem. He won’t be the guy going forward to make this league better. The CFL BOGs should be looking to replace him. As far as Madani goes, I find he is neither a friend or foe of the CFL.

  10. Well Drew, It sure seems like the decision to bring Madani on has backfired. This is not a surprising development. Despite what you think, nobody here cares how many teams Arash worked for. He could have worked for them all for all we care. The fact is the man is a buffoon. His constant CFL bashing and negative spin on every CFL story he writes is tiresome. It takes actual hard work to be so negative about something.

    Your point that the CFL is “focused on the wrong things” is invalid for the simple fact that the CFL has not done anything out of the ordinary. These fines are typical, they happen every week as pointed out by Paulo Senra. There were a lot, yes, but that is likely due to how similar the colour schemes of the 2 uniforms were.

    As for the concussion talk.. Orridge is in a tough spot. If he stands up there and admits that football causes CTE, it validates the concussion lawsuit against the league. Besides, it’s not like the CFL is unique in saying that.. both the NFL and NHL both maintain the same position.

    So really, another attempt at trying to create a negative story by Arash. I’m starting to wonder why I even bother reading this website anymore.

    • Of course you’re right with what you’ve stated here, but the real question is why is does Madani have such a sneering, slithering, contemptuous tone for the CFL? Every league has it’s issues, but there really seems to be something about our home grown league that bothers this clown.

      For Edwards to try and spin it that Madani is just a reporter objectively going about his business so we should all quit hating on the guy for being negative is laughable. Why does Madani reserve his hatchet jobs mostly for the CFL when ridiculous things happen every day in the non-CFL sports world?

      Madani seems to hold the CFL/Orridge to a different standard than other leagues often times manufacturing derision and controversy for the league out of whole cloth.

      He either has a personal grudge against the league or he is just doing the bidding of the company he works for that has actively hated the CFL for years. My bet is a little bit of both because there are other people at that company that aren’t nearly as negative as Madani. And part of it (I think) is that Madani is just a negative, sneering, derisive, know-it-all that fancies himself as an expert on tennis, football, hockey, soccer, basketball, lawn dart, and backgammon even though he looks as if he hasn’t set foot on the field of play at any level at any time in his entire life.

      Bottom line is that you would be hard pressed to find a more embarrassing article written on any other sports based websites this week/month/year? As bad as Madani and his ‘takes’ are, this article in defence of the guy is hilariously awful.

  11. The rules are the same in the NFL, and fines are handed out every weekend. Firstly they have a uniform code so as that all of the players look ‘uniform’, and not like they just showed up for a game in the park wearing/altering/changing things outside of those rules. There are full sized posters in each locker room (home and away) that the the equipment manager is responsible for putting up that each player is supposed to make sure he is compliant both in code and uniformity before he goes on the field.

    Secondly as has been pointed out sponsorship is extremely important to the branding partners, and if the league doesn’t try to get a handle on it then they would be negligent. This has become a story because Madani (even in the off season) likes to get his shots in at the CFL/Orridge whenever possible.

    I don’t watch much NFL football, but I do follow some websites that detail the weekly shenanigans of that league’s refereeing, fiasco’s, commissioner debacles, uncalled QB headshots/concussion issues, etc., and yet hardly a peep from Madani.

    I think Orridge has done some good things, and some not so good things, but the amount of scorn he (and by extension the CFL as a whole) gets is so over the top it’s ridiculous. The man has to enforce the rules, and this happens every week in both the NFL/CFL, but like I said this is a story because certain people in our country just can’t wait to pounce on our game at a moments notice. Sorry for the mini rant, I’m just sick of it.

    And Drew if you think Madani only has a ‘supposed’ bias against the CFL then you are either wilfully ignorant or actually in collusion with the man himself. Madani’s sneering, derisive, and often misleading tweets about the CFL are truly disgusting. If you can’t see that then one would have to conclude that you are on the same page with him, and that page will only be turned once you’ve successfully done as much damage as you can to Orridge and the league as possible. What a sick joke you Mr Edwards and this site have become.

  12. Madani is a Toronto Hack. He does not care about the CFL unless he can write something negative

  13. Whuile I didn’t notice that there were several different color socks worn by the players while attending the Grey Cup (to me a non-issue), I did observe that both teams had both players and coaches on the side-lines taht were constantly on the field of play while plays were being run….doesn’t this warrant a penalty and a much more worthy column. At half time the sideline markings were all but dissapeared which could have caused problems determining catches in bounds or not. (and I believe penalty’s should have been called)

  14. As long as Madani is part of this site, I’m done. A shame really. As loyal fans of our local teams, we like to go at each other, I’ve always had respect for the fans on this site. It’s not that the CFL shouldn’t be critisized and examined for all its warts, it’s just that this seems to be the main focus of this writer. Very rarely does he write anything positive, and having followed this league since the 70’s, it is a much stronger league now. For you Drew, to compare a MSL first time championship game (with a local team) to the Grey Cup, (which was just in Toronto, a few years ago, and no local team) is simply bad reporting. Report the whole story. You have lost me as a fan of this site and my respect.

  15. Sorry Drew. It doesn’t wash. No problem with an honest critic who sees both sides. But this guy is a paid shill for Sportsnet and his stuff is written from their corporate agenda. Not honest. There is lots of room for constructive criticism … but not from this guy … he is bought and paid for.

  16. Socks? every player’s feet look different depending on how or if he is taped up. Madani? idiot. Orridge? Sooner he is fired the better.
    Pinball for Commish!

  17. NotJoshSmith // December 9, 2016 at 10:58 am //

    It is really time for both Drew and Madani to go. Madani is a braggart anti-CFL’er and Drew hasn’t reported much of substance in the last 2 years about the Ticats because he is so whipped by Austin. Mainstream media is corrupt and dying quickly. We don’t trust you anymore.

  18. I enjoy Arash Madani’s articles. Like any reporter or journalist, sometimes I strongly agree him and sometimes I strongly disagree with him. To suggest Arash Madani hates the CFL is RIDICULOUS. It is clear to me he hates the leadership of the CFL. I think almost everyone who visit’s this site agree’s that Jeffry Orridge and Glen Johnson have not done very good jobs this year. I have trouble crying for the players regarding their socks fines. The players are professionals. Like many professionals, they have to follow the rules and dress codes of their employer. How many professionals hate having to wear business attire every day? Probably many. But you have to deal with it if you want to continue with your particular employer.

  19. I agree with the leagues stand on fines after the Grey Cup. There are uniform rules, and sponsorship agreements in place. So the league has the right to fine, and the players the responsibility to recognize it.

  20. Someone has to say this……
    Arash, Sock it to ’em, sock it to ’em

  21. It’s going to be a long off-season; sockgate, really…how days till camp? 🙂

  22. antoine lussier // December 11, 2016 at 9:11 am //

    it is just the cfl being footloose and fashion free

  23. Arash Madani is an asshole.

  24. There is nothing wrong with being critical when it’s warranted, and yes, it’s warranted in some cases for the CFL (and every sports league)…but Madani’s criticism is often accompanied with low blows, omission of information, and unfair comparisons.

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