Riders the only ones to get off scot-free after Cox assault

Last week, Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Justin Cox was charged with domestic assault and here is a partial list of those adversely affected by his actions: first and foremost, the woman he assaulted. The community of Regina. The Canadian Football League. Even Cox himself.

Noticeably absent from that list? The Saskatchewan Roughriders – despite the fact that they were the ones who made the decision to bring Cox, who had two previous arrests for domestic violence, to Canada. And if the CFL wants to get serious about dealing with the issue then they need to make the teams at least partially accountable.

Cox was charged with assault causing bodily harm “as the result of investigation into an allegation of intimate partner violence” according to Regina police, who say a 23-year-old woman sustained injuries consistent with a physical assault on April 16. The Riders released him the same day the charges were laid and CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said in a statement he will block any attempt by a CFL team to sign Cox.

In other words, Cox’s football career is essentially over. And while it’s impossible to have much by the way of sympathy for the man given the circumstances, there’s little question his life has been altered by these events and not for the better.

The league doesn’t look particularly good, either. In August of 2015, Orridge announced a violence against woman policy that, among other things, included this line: “We will always err on the side of safety, respect for the sanctity of human life, and every person’s inherent right to security from harm.”

And yet the Riders were permitted to sign Cox, who was charged with two domestic violence incidents within a year, with little by way the way of accountability.

There were plenty of warning signs. While a senior at Mississippi State, Cox was arrested in January 2014 after an incident involving his then-girlfriend and charged with burglary and aggravated domestic violence. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trespassing and was fined $600. The domestic violence charge was dismissed at the victim’s request. Then in July 2015, while a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, he was charged with burglary, aggravated domestic assault and trespassing in Mississippi. The team released him the following day.

Nonetheless, the Riders signed Cox in May of 2016 and he played in 15 games last season season while being named the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie. In December, the club rewarded him to a two-year contract extension.

Riders general manager and head coach Chris Jones was asked about Cox’s background last July when reports surfaced that the team was interested in former NFL linebacker Greg Hardy, another player with a history of domestic abuse.

“Absolutely we look at it,” Jones told the CBC. “I have known some people who have known Justin Cox since high school and had a lot of thorough investigation done on his background.”

The reality is the Riders signed Cox because they thought he was a good football player and didn’t care one bit about his past. And why would they? There’s no consequences for the team or its leadership for being wrong.

The fix is easy enough: impose a football-related penalty on teams whose players commit violent criminal acts – particularly those with a previous history of doing so.

The system could work something like this: if a team signs a player with a previous arrest or conviction for a violent offence and that player is arrested for a violent offence while in Canada, the team loses a first-round draft pick.

While a true zero-tolerance policy that would keep accused domestic abusers out of the CFL entirely has its merits, the league has often been bastion of those in need of second chances, whatever the reason. By imposing a football-related penalty, decision-makers would be forced to more carefully weigh the safety concerns and they might also be inclined to offer players who pose a potential risk the education and support they need to change their behaviour.

Developing a comprehensive domestic violence policy is challenging in part because there’s no consensus on what’s fair and effective – even banning abusers can have the unintended consequence of imposing an additional economic or emotional hardship on victims. But there’s little question that the ultimate gatekeepers – general managers around the league – have yet to be held accountable for their decisions if and when they go wrong.

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 (1521 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.

61 Comments on Riders the only ones to get off scot-free after Cox assault

  1. mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 7:25 pm //

    I think the league should impose this proposed punity absolutely. Call it the Chris Jones Rule.
    Don’t worry Jones’s day is coming soon enough. His antics are getting old and I’d bet the BOD have already weighted the pros and cons of his possible removal

  2. I think the CFL should adopt a policy that anyone charged with a violent crime, recent or past, should be required to submit proof that he has be rehabilitated before being allowed to sign a CFL contract. Proof could take the form of evidence of taking counseling, workshops, getting mentored or whatever is appropriate.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 8:11 pm //

      problem is Dano T all the workshops,counseling, mentoring in the world isn’t proof it will happen again. The only thing is years and years of healthy relationships with women without incidents and unfortunately a football career doesn’t last that long

    • Dano T, Teaching does not equal learning

  3. mrnehnehincognito must be a bomber schmoe or stump fan lol

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 8:12 pm //

      Stamps fan. Nice to meet you Linda

    • Welcome Linda – you will find that you will see alot of comments from mrnehnehincognito (aka Stampland) on this site. Most of them are slanted against the Riders, Chris Jones and Rider fans. So if you happen to be a member of one of the aforementioned groups I hope you have thick skin as he will try to push all your buttons – and not in a good way! He is relentless!

      • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 9:10 pm //

        I only say whats fact

        • @>mrnehnehincognito
          “I only say whats fact”

          No you don’t, you say whatever you want and it is almost always just your opinion, it appears that you think your better than everyone else commenting but honestly there is not much fact in what you say just opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs.

          • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm //

            I don’t think I’m better than anyone Buck. Everyone has a right to express what they want. What to I say that isn’t true?

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 8:51 pm //

      you do know you just named 3 of the other 8 team there Lynda. Whats that tell you?

    • Dan Bombers // April 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm //

      Low blow Linda !!

  4. lochtess // April 24, 2017 at 7:54 pm //

    “…here is a partial list of those adversely affected by his actions: first and foremost, the woman he assaulted. The community of Regina. The Canadian Football League. Even Cox himself.

    Noticeably absent from that list? The Saskatchewan Roughriders – despite the fact that they were the ones who made the decision to bring Cox, who had two previous arrests for domestic violence, to Canada.”

    I’d hardly say the Riders have been through this unscathed, considering this is the 8th article on this site alone lambasting the team and management. In fact, it’s definitely had more of an impact on the team than the CFL itself. I strongly doubt, one season ticket holder outside of Regina has contacted their local team and complained, let alone cancelled their seats.

    Domestic violence needs to be eliminated period, yet you advocate for players to get additional chances if their actions occurred outside of Canada, put GM’s and coaches should be personally accountable if it goes wrong? How is that logical? Either there needs to be an outright ban if they have a prior history, or the CFL as a whole needs to understand that short of cutting a player immediately, it’s always going to be a risk that may blow up in their faces.

    It’s not like the CFL looks any better if a player with a clean record assaults someone for the first time. It’s always going to be a bad look.

  5. Maybe the league could take a harsher stance on ‘all’ criminal activity including player use of anabolic steroids, drug possession, distribution of drugs for the purpose of selling, and also, of course, violence and assault on women. Then, all teams, including the Saskatchewan Roughriders can have their first round pick confiscated by the commissioner with the consent of Drew Edwards. Sounds fair and rationale to me.

  6. Riderfan34 // April 24, 2017 at 8:15 pm //

    wow like no other team in the cfl has had it problems? like the BG lions did back in the day? yes they brought him in gave him chance and he messed up! he is not the only player in the cfl or rider organization to mess up!

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 8:40 pm //

      Yes it has and is a problem with all teams however the Riders clearly have a high ranking official how is exceptionally aloof with this issue

  7. The writers who post stories attempting to get clicks and commenters on their stories are becoming increasingly obvious aren’t they Drew? Drew Edwards is the one coming out of this scot-free.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 8:32 pm //

      Drew Edwards is bringing to light the issue and exposing those who have no interest in fixing the issue.

      • Ya sure he is, especially if he can squeeze in a story about the Riders, if he maybe wrote about Eric Tillman and the Ticats not many people would care would they. Eric has a bit of a checkered past doesn’t he? Pretty sure I remember him and a story about a young babysitter hmmmm guess it is ok if your not a Rider to be a sleeze bag….

        • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm //

          Apples to oranges Buck
          It is widely accepted that medication lead to the action. What he did wasn’t really molestation anyways.Not that I condone it!

          • Are you kidding me? Tillman sexual grabbing of a teenage babysitter widely accepted that it was due to medication? It must have taken a great deal of courage for the kid to come forward considering who Tillman was at the time. He swore self righteously on TV that he was not guilty and would clear his name – leaving a poor young traumatized girl without validation and probably wishing she had never reported it given how enthusiastic and protective the Sask fans are. He used that to his full advantage for as long as he could, if you ask me. A man who made some sort of intoxicated mistake (I am being kind) I think would have owned up to it and done everything he could to help the girl given his position in the community. He didn’t admit to it until near his trial date. What kind of man does that to a kid and then refuses to take responsibility for himself until the last second? And he was SO sorry! I find that hard to believe given how he conducted himself leading up to that day. In my opinion Tillman is no better than Cox and should be banned from the CFL, as Cox now is. No place for people like that in the CFL because all it does is create bad press and turn people off to the product.

          • mrnehnehincognito, apples-to-oranges??? I’m sorry, you lost me on this. You can be extremely critical of Chris Jones from reading all of your comments. Yet, you can ‘understand’ Eric Tillman — That’s a red flag to me. Furthermore, it’s rather interesting that Chris Jones was a part of the Stampeders organization along with Toronto for a period of time. In addition, he was head coach of the Eskimos for two years before moving to Saskatchewan. Does this place a black mark on those organizations, besides Saskatchewan? I mean, really, he couldn’t have been a saint during his time in the league — Or was he??? Ironically, it was Eric Tilleman that was fired by the Riders when his personal encounter was revealed. Yet, the Eskimos chose to give Tilleman “another chance.” So what does this make the Edmonton Eskimos organization? I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble understanding where you’re coming from when it comes to organizations, players, coaches, etc. And furthermore, this goes out to Drew Edwards as well. Talk can be rather cheap, isn’t it Drew?

  8. mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 8:30 pm //

    You have aspirations to be a pro athlete you simply cannot do these things. You are inherently a roll model and must act like it. If you do you’re not the proper caliber of person to be a pro athlete.
    Pretty sure the CFL is no better off having had the likes of Dwight Anderson,Taj Smith, Trevis Smith, Cory Sheets, Lawernece Philips, Joffrey Reynolds etc etc. There are plenty of outstanding individuals with no criminal past that are potential CFL stars.
    Doug Flutie, George Reed, Mike Pringle, Geroy Simon, Kent Austin, Ron Lancaster, Tony Gaberial,Chris Getlaf,Jon Cornish, Russ Jackson etc etc etc. all enriched this league with ever having been in hand cuffs.
    For Chris Jones to say we wouldn’t have a CFL without these types of guys shows ignorance and is the proof he isn’t fit to be vetting/scouting or in anyway involved in pro football.

  9. I think such a penalty would not only be overly punitive to the teams but probably illegal in that you are preventing people who may not have been convicted of anything from earning via their livelihood. If the CFL is vetting these signings then that should be the extent of it. The Riders did the right thing and released him immediately just as with the situation with the Stampeders and their DB selling coke from his mom’s home. That is the end of the team’s involvement.

  10. Riders13 // April 24, 2017 at 8:42 pm //

    What an idiotic idea. Violence against women can not and should not be tolerated but to suggest it appropriate to penalize the team he played for is makes about as much sense as penalizing a team when a player is caught on PEDs or giving kids a trophy for participating rather than winning. Justin Cox alone is responsible for his actions.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm //

      Riders13. You say violence against women cannot and should not be tolerated. By allowing a 2 time offender the stage of being a pro athlete in a city were he’ll be revered that is exactly what you are doing

      • Riders13 // April 24, 2017 at 9:38 pm //

        Since when was Justin Cox revered? I’m extremely happy that the Riders cut him loose and hope he and the woman he allegedly assaulted get all the help they need to get their lives on track. I say allegedly only because he hasn’t been convicted or plead guilty…yet. My point is that to penalize a sport team for the personal actions of one of their players in their private lives is ridiculous. Were the Patriots charged for the actions of Hernandez? Were the Falcons penalized when Michael Vick was convicted of running a dog fighting outfit? No and they shouldn’t have been. The sporting world is riddled with “revered” players committing crimes and they alone should face the consequences for their actions. Edwards has his head up his you know what on this one. Seems like yours is up there with it.

  11. Puck Hog // April 24, 2017 at 8:43 pm //

    C’mon, Edwards…..you can’t really believe the crap you write. Make an employer responsible for an employees actions away from the workplace?? Heavin forbid that you lose your house because of something stupid that Dunk does.
    Then you state, “The reality is the Riders signed Cox …….. and didn’t care one bit about his past.” How can you say that? You have no idea what the Riders thought about his past.
    Your website is turning into the National Enquirer.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 9:01 pm //

      Puckhog read the following statement:
      Chris Jones knowingly and willfully signed a player who had twice already in his short life abused women and committed a crime. His action caused a Regina woman to suffer the same fate. In addition he tried to sign another player with a similar history but the league was so concerned they blocked it.
      Chris Jones clearly is ok with endangering society and enabling this horrible crime to occur as long as he can pad his resume.
      You’re dam right he’s responsible

      • MarcusCrandell2007 // April 24, 2017 at 10:37 pm //

        “Chris Jones clearly is ok with endangering society and enabling this horrible crime to occur as long as he can pad his resume.”
        Not sure thats entirely true unless Jones explicitly told Cox to commit the crime. If the Riders don’t sign Cox, he very well may still commit an assault, but to a different person. Does that make it any better? Pretty unfair to put blame Chris Jones for something his player does. Why don’t we blame Bill Belichick for Hernandez’ murder/murders while we’re at it?

      • Puck Hog // April 26, 2017 at 7:49 am //

        Incognito, I see you haven’t cut back on your “meds”.

  12. unbelievable! Mr Curling can’t believe the hypocrites, Cox being vilifiied without one single conviction? Please sue the CFL, you’ll win! are you kidding! This guy is a white knight next to all of you haters, the pendulam has swung way too far, you’ve all lost it. Thank God the Commish is done, very, very bad job

  13. Mr Stampland, he’s never been convicted, I hope you’re never held to that level! unbelieveable

  14. mrnehnehincognito // April 24, 2017 at 10:00 pm //

    Riderfans can’t have in both ways.
    You can’t say you are against DV then be OK with Jones supporting and signing this type of player when you think it will help your team win

    • Puck Hog // April 26, 2017 at 7:53 am //

      Stampland, Now you’re dictating what the Rider fans can say? Since you won’t get a job, try volunteering somewhere. Clearly you have too much time on your hands!

  15. Absolutely the Riders are responsible as much as Jones. Jones decisions affect the club’s reputation & can affect the bottom line. Ask United about that. Better not take those merchandise sales for granted. There have already been women’s groups rightfully speaking up. Jones already has a rep for looking at players with bad reps. Mitchell posted nasty comments on social media & ended up on a tryout. So deleting them & not having a conviction makes it right? Sorry – don’t think so. Should the league have to step in to keep Greg Hardy out? Bringing Cox in was bad business full stop. More to the point the CFL has taken the step to do something against domestic violence which is long overdue. Jones may be leaving no stone unturned to find a winner but it doesn’t mean he has to take on everyone that crawls out from the rock they’re under.

  16. I don’t understand how a guy who has 2 convictions for violence / Breaking and Entering can get across the border! Canada Border Services is pretty sharp about catching people with criminal records trying to cross in to Canada. Did the Riders management somehow assist him with immigration?

  17. This isn’t on the Riders. They gave Cox another chance to get his life together. He messed up. He committed the crime. Jones or the Riders didn’t commit the crime. They promptly released him. I don’t get why there is such a huge anti riders/jones campaign out there. Especially on 3downnation. Write about the draft and leave this alone. Just out of respect for the victim ffs

  18. antlerman // April 25, 2017 at 7:35 am //

    yeah exactly everybody keeps blaming the Riders but if the guy is such an obvious risk to the public and danger to society why did the Canadian Border Services let him in our country .Maybe the author of this story should look into how these guys get past the border with this past history

    • Both times that Cox was charged with DV, there was no conviction so no reason for Border Agents to stop Cox for entering Canada.

  19. mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 9:24 am //

    Love how Rider supporters pivoted away from the team and are now trying to blame border services.

  20. So would you be okay if the Riders bring in Greg Hardy then – he’s still out there. He deserves a chance to put his life together just like everyone else, does he? That has nothing to do with the Riders because they didn’t do the crime? Just exactly where do you draw the line? So if Cox gets off on this charge because the woman decides not to go ahead with the charges should the Riders try to bring him back? And if more complaints arise are the Riders blameless because after all Cox should have the chance to put his life together?

  21. Let’s take this 1 step further. With 15 coaches, the largest scouting staff in the league, not to mention the guys at the top, you would think after looking at Cox’ past there would have been 1 guy to say “hey Chris maybe this isn’t a good idea” when it came to Cox, Mitchell or Hardy. Why does it have to come to the attention of the league office to step in to prevent the CFL from looking stupid. This isn’t just about the Riders. Anyone with interest in any club has the right to comment on this without Rider Nation feeling offended.

  22. I disagree with the “football-related penalty” approach because it is punitive rather than preventative.

    Why not require all CFL players to have a criminal record check reviewed by the league prior to a contract being registered? Lots of occupations do this, and in fact, our Border Security people probably do one already in order to give American players a work visa. Violent offences on that sheet should disqualify you. We are under no obligation to give second or third chances to non-citizens who wish to work here.

    Leaving it in the team’s hands will mean football administrators who have spent their whole career cocooned in this uber-macho, ultra-competitive environment as ethical and moral guardians. Some of them are up to the task, but a lot still don’t get it.

    • While I don’t totally agree with not giving second chances, which we’ve already discussed, I 100% appreciate your balanced take and agree that if the league itself is going to take a zero tolerance approach, they need to nip it in the bud before a contract gets approved. To penalize a team for something the league inherently endorsed by approving the contract would come off as nothing more than trying to save face.

  23. I have a hard time blaming the Riders here. They’re operating in a league where everyone is complicit. To expect them (the Riders) to be the martyrs when you have people like Tillman in the league isn’t really fair.The league, and every team in it, must look at this issue with the seriousness it deserves and develop a policy that isn’t just lip service.

    Personally, if that policy had a football-related penalty for those teams that opted to pursue players with histories of violence towards women and had those player re-offend, I’d be okay with that.

  24. Ladd Law // April 26, 2017 at 5:53 pm //

    It would appear that Edwards figures every other writer on 3D threw in 2 cents worth on this subject and he didn’t want to be left out. Holy conjecture batman. What a piece of excrement article. I see most of his other stories have no following unless he mentions the Riders. As for my other thoughts, see the other 5 stories on the matter.

  25. Meanwhile…Drew sits back snickering at the frothing commentary…which is the point of all this.

  26. Maybe Rider fans should stick to reading the love poems by Rod “the shill” Pedersen, you guys just aren’t built to take even the most minor criticism.

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