“Don’t throw your trash in my backyard.”
That’s the song that comes into my head any time the CFL takes a look at a player from down south with a criminal or violent history. It’s no different with recently-released Saskatchewan Roughrider Justin Cox, who was sent packing after a domestic violence incident this week that left a woman with head injuries. While I can appreciate the swift response, the truth is that Cox never should have been allowed into the league to begin with.
This wasn’t the first time Cox has been involved with violence towards women. He has two prior charges for assault against him, the first one involving an assault on his then-girlfriend (he pled guilty to a lesser charge after she declined to move forward on the assault, an all-too-common outcome.) If the league and its teams truly cared about their stance on domestic violence, Cox never would have been given the chance to become the Riders’ Most Outstanding Rookie.
The CFL has a mandatory seminar for its players. It focuses heavily on social media training; being careful in what you post, who you interact with, and teaching trending words. In at least one of the seminars, it involved a female RCMP officer discussing statistics on domestic violence. According to one player, while it had great information it came off ‘forced’ and as if the league was just covering its butt.
I think the mandatory seminars and public statements are important. The best way to curb the acceptance of violence is however, follow along here, to not accept it. Period. What good are afternoon seminars, if the league itself doesn’t follow through? If those responsible for acquiring players can so easily brush aside repeated behaviour to put a product on the field?
According to Chris Jones, he knew guys who knew Justin Cox so that made it ok to sign him. How many times have we seen friends and family members of violent offenders claim, “he was such a nice guy,” after a brutal crime? Cox showed a history of violence and aggression. His own actions showed exactly who he is. Jones showed acceptance of Cox’s behaviour by signing him and it is a microcosm of how easily brushed aside violence and aggression towards women is overlooked in favour of men who are talented or successful.
This isn’t just about whether or not a player will be a great guy on a team. It creates a dangerous culture that tells people you can get away with heinous acts if you are popular enough. This is why women don’t speak up. There is a continued pattern where accountability and appropriate repercussions don’t exist and the offender is nearly untouchable.
This never should have come down to a third strike for Justin Cox. It’s too late to make the policy “zero tolerance” because tolerance was already shown. The CFL’s policy was brought in during the summer of 2015, yet Cox signed with the Riders in 2016. I will give the league credit for blocking any potential signing of Greg Hardy, interestingly also by Jones’ Riders. It’s a weak stance, however, if it isn’t consistent across the board.
I do believe the CFL is serious in wanting a higher standard for its players, the follow through needs to be there. If so, perhaps there can be influence on a certain league south of the border as well. The same league that had scouts from every team checking out Joe Mixon.
– Allison Currie is an Edmonton-based writer, producer, customer service expert and social media guru. Follow her on Twitter @AlleyDalley.