#WhatAboutKaren a public relations calamity for CFL

Is this what the CFL was anticipating when it seriously amped up its commitment to social media?

That same cyber space which could attract a younger demographic to the league would turn on it like an old-west mob on a horse thief?

That even the least Twitter-savvy member of the older, most longstanding, part of its fan base sympathizes with #WhatAboutKaren?

Well, that’s where the league finds itself; in an almost irreversible public relations calamity, although new commissioner Randy Ambrosie and his advisers made the best they could of it with a make-good package to Winnipeg fan Karen Kuldys, who didn’t get the million bucks she probably should have.

Still, early in the fourth weekend of the season, the CFL has really ticked off its young fans, its old fans and fans who haven’t even been conceived yet.

We didn’t bother to call the league about the illegal block called on the Toronto Argonauts’ Llevi Noel in Winnipeg Thursday night, nullifying a Martese Jackson kickoff-return touchdown because it doesn’t matter what they say. It was the wrong call even if it hadn’t cost Winnipeg fan Kuldys the grand prize in Safeway’s $1,000,000 Touchdown to Win contest, as the second kickoff return major of the game.

That penalty – when the Winnipeg defender stumbled into the blocker several yards behind the ball carrier during the most exciting play in football — is inappropriate seven days of every week. It is the kind of call the league has worked for nearly a decade now to eradicate, especially on returns. There were no safety issues, it didn’t affect the outcome of a run that had long outstripped the blocking and the official could not possibly have seen the entire play.

Even if there were marginal reasons for throwing the flag, which there weren’t, it showed a distinct lack of discretion and sense of time and place, as did the fact that no other official came over and mentioned, “um wait a minute, bud.”

An officiating crew calls that one against the Argos but doesn’t throw a flag when Ricky Ray almost has his head taken off? Twice? Priorities, fellas. You didn’t protect the quarterback….or the entertainment quotient.

Add the call and the non-calls involving Ray hits to the replay decisions in the first two weeks of the season that looked like promo ads about macular degeneration and you can easily overlook the good work the head office has done in the past couple of years to improve officials’ training, evaluation and overall knowledge.

BC Lions head coach Wally Buono said that officiating is getting better. But public perception springs out of the mercurial moments, not the day-to-day. Twitter and mega-sites such as Deadspin are going real hard at the CFL, which it definitely does not need. And neither does Safeway.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (116 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

39 Comments on #WhatAboutKaren a public relations calamity for CFL

  1. ticats63 // July 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm //

    Well said, Steve. Officiating seems to be one place where the league continues to short change the fans, and it is now coming back to bite them.
    The extremely rare $1,000,000 prize (when was the last time two kickoffs were returned for TD’s?) provides the magnifying glass. Just think of the positive publicity the league could have had if a flag had not been thrown? I can hear the reactions now:
    “A million dollar prize give-away for TWO kick return TD’s!”
    “That must have been one hell of an exciting game!”
    “We should start watching more CFL games”.
    Too bad.

  2. Stuart Murray // July 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm //

    Well said ticats63..a wasted marketing op !!…could have even drawn more new interest than ” fantasy”

  3. Generally I respect most of the writing that comes out of this site, but holy hell are you guys spouting some sensationalism on this topic today.

    First of all, bad calls happen. It sucks that Karen Kludys lost out on a million bucks, but how many games over the past 5 years have been affected by a bad call? How many of those games, had they not been affected by a bad call, would have changed the landscape of the league’s standings? Should we go back and reverse all those calls so that the “right” teams get the opportunity to compete for the GC (something that has tremendous financial impact for an organization for years)? No, of course not, because bad calls happen.

    Second, Milton writes “…mega-sites such as Deadspin are going real hard at the CFL…”. I visited Deadspin after reading this piece and had to scroll down a full page before even finding the one article than mentions the Argo v. Bomber game. In that article, the author writes “…A needless penalty for Noel to take, but no official is going to see him make contact like that before a player goes sprawling and NOT throw a flag”. I’d hardly qualify that as “going hard” at the CFL. In fact, the author agrees with the official’s reaction.

    The CFL, WBB and Safeway all did the right things here by awarding Kludys a VIP trip to the GC, 2017 AND 2018 WBB season tickets, and free groceries for a year ON TOP OF her $25,000 entertainment system. Media sites like 3DownNation milking this story and making Kludys some sort of martyr for their anti-officiating agenda is the real tragedy here.

    Shameful stuff.

    • Purrfect // July 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm //

      I guess you missed the B Banks return at the end of the 2014 Grey Cup?

    • Riders13 // July 14, 2017 at 6:13 pm //

      Great posts Dan! Sensationalistic blog articles like this are as harmful to the integrity of the CFL as the stories that they write about. Thankfully, the majority of fans either have never heard of these sites or are able to filter out most over the over the top BS that’s written.

    • Dan. Sorry. Doesn’t wash. Wrong call. Who was in the booth? Fire that person. Minimum response. Officiating is a critical element. Insist on transparency and accountability or admit results are random. If random then why watch. The League is defending the indefensible. Why? If it was Jeff Harbin in the booth … it is just inexcusable. I am surprised that the betting line does not reveal who is in the booth since they determine the outcome 20% of the time.

      • @Amicus I never said it was the “right” call. My comment was a reply to this column, which is about the league’s reaction to Karen Kludys losing out on the $1M prize.

      • Not Jeff Harbin // July 15, 2017 at 9:09 am //

        Too many people are spouting off when they don’t know what they’re talking about and this is a wonderful example. Harbin has blown some replay assignments, some extremely critical game changing assignments for sure. I’m stunned that he still has that job. That all said, the penalty call that cost Karen $1M was not and is not reviewable so to blame Harbin, or whoever was in the booth is 100% misguided.

        • I believe an illegal block penalty on a kick return is challengable. Why Trestman opted not to challenge, only he knows.

  4. Finally covered correctly, I too saw it as the Winnipeg defender stumbled into the blocker, wasn’t an intentional hit. Definitely shouldn’t have been called. Somehow we all need to move on, but the league ideally needs to give us something to make us think its being at least worked on…

    • Grain. Yes. The something is firing the guy in the booth. Minimum response. Should include jake Ireland and glen Johnson.

  5. Esksfan // July 14, 2017 at 5:24 pm //

    Air Miles has also stepped up and given Karen 500,000 air miles. While not a $1,000,000 it’s a pretty good apology from all involved.

  6. No, it’s not shameful stuff. The criticism is entirely justified. I’ve been a lifelong CFL fan and booster, had seasons’ tickets for 20 years, watch all the games on TV, do NOT watch the NFL, and I say the CFL blew this one big time. That officiating crew had multiple blown calls and non calls (the Ricky Ray attempted decapitation) and the culprits should be fired or suspended.

    • My comment is not a justification of poor officiating. It’s a criticisms of 3 Down Nation for trying to sensationalize the Karen Kludys incident as some sort of major gaff by the CFL, when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Incidentally, if you did watch the NFL you’d know that the officiating there is equally abysmal.

  7. White Horse // July 14, 2017 at 5:28 pm //

    TSN Rod Smith and the panel are the ones who turned this entire spectacle #poorKaren. into a fiasco that didn’t need to happen. They are the idiots here!

  8. Scottsask // July 14, 2017 at 5:28 pm //

    I would agree, well played by everyone involved. Let’s move on.

  9. @Esksfan Totally. You know what’s not a “public relations calamity”? The league, a club, and two organizations stepping up to help the fan of a small pro-league who came really close to winning a million dollars were it not for the ebb and flow of live sports. It’s a story that shows how much the CFL, its teams, and supporters value fans. It’s a story that showcases the accessibility of the league. It’s a story that highlights the human side of the CFL versus it’s colossal brother to the south. But you know what we’re going to get instead of any of those stories? A few more dozen hit pieces on the CFL’s officiating (which, TBH, is bad but not that much worse than the NFL where they get paid way more).

  10. @Balmy Beacher You missed my point.

  11. The game was a embarrassing PR nightmare for the CFL. The officiating was brutally inconsistent from start to finish. Hopefully the game doesn’t affect U.S. viewers from tuning in again.

    • I am not an evil spambot // July 15, 2017 at 6:32 am //

      It wasn’t on TV down here. It was available on ESPN3, which is an online “channel” that carries all CFL games. Some are on TV early in the season, very few after U.S. college football starts. I wouldn’t worry about U.S. reaction. However much attention you think the CFL gets down here, it gets less than you think. I’m a die-hard CFL fan and I literally do not know another American who watches the games.

      • Not Jeff Harbin // July 15, 2017 at 9:13 am //

        I know two! Wehave two people that come from Pittsburgh to every Ticats game and another family of three that come from Cincinnati to one per season. They’re both tailgating with us before the game against BC tonight.

        But your point remains valid!

  12. I think the league has responded admirably and turned this into a positive PR moment, thanks in part to the graciousness of Karen herself. Yes, social media overreacts to everything but this is far from a calamity.

  13. Scottsask // July 14, 2017 at 6:02 pm //

    Maybe Trudeau will give her a payday and an apology. Let’s get real here.

  14. Scottsask // July 14, 2017 at 6:34 pm //

    Thank you.

  15. Good on the CFL and Safeway for stepping up to give her a generous consolation prize. They acted quickly and are doing something for her. The texting and call were a calamity. The response was not.

  16. Ok look at it how you want. Yes bad calls happen in every game and officials are human blah blah blah. In todays age of technology and the affordable ability to get multiple camera angles the whole eye in the sky there is no excuse that there are as many mistakes made as we see today. On top of that do you truly think that the league or its sponsors would have stepped up to do what they have done for this Karen woman if it wasn’t for the public outrage. Also with what the league has done with its actions without saying so is “yes we screwed that call it should never have been made”. I as a 45 year fan hope that at the very least the new commissioner sees the problem the league has with its officiating and looks at really making steps to improve it.

  17. The Argos couldve challenged the call why is noone asking that???

    • Eddy Rayner // July 14, 2017 at 9:54 pm //

      It was a scoring play which, I believe, are all automatically reviewed by the command centre. Trestman would have been asking to review a play that was already reviwed.

      • I believe the penalty called nullifies the scoring play, thus no automatic review. Therefore, the Argos should have challenged it and saved us all a lot of trouble.

  18. Jeff259 // July 14, 2017 at 9:34 pm //

    It was a bad call, unfortunately one of many during each game I have watched this year. In reviewing the plays, I have often heard the commentators remark that there was nothing there, or shouldn’t be a penalty. Despite the bad call, I wondered the same thing why Trestman did not challenge the call since it negated a TD. As for the fan that lost out on a million, she has actually walked away with a pretty good consolation prize in the end. Yes, The officiating has to get better in the CFL, but it does in every other professional sports league as well.

  19. To state the obvious- officiating was sub par last night. Bombers definitely had majority of calls or non calls go their way but it was a bad performance all around for the crew. I thought that week was an improvement and that crews had started to find their groove . Most recognize that officiating any sport is a difficult and thankless job, however , CFL fans and teams deserve better than what we witnessed last night.

  20. justforkicks // July 14, 2017 at 10:05 pm //

    Can’t lose what you never had. Regardless of officiating.
    Like saying Calgary should have won the game tonight.

  21. ,,Patience // July 14, 2017 at 10:41 pm //

    Trestman could not challenge it because clipping is one of the few penalties that is not challengable. Also, it was not automatically reviewed because it was not a scoring play; the penalty made it not a scoring play. There was no review.

  22. BroMcbroface // July 15, 2017 at 8:44 am //

    The worst part is they kept flogging the ads about the 1 Million prize all night last night. Kinda cheapens the whole contest.

  23. Green rider // July 15, 2017 at 9:08 pm //

    When I first heard about this I felt sorry for Karen. Then I watchEd the PVR of the game. It was a horribly reffed game period. With that said, during this particular play, the refs didn’t say oh we better throw a flag or she’ll win a million dollars. Yes, the refs called a penalty when they shouldn’t have, but that happens all the time.
    It is really too bad that it affected the contest, but stuff happens in sports.
    As for Karen and her husband – quit bellyaching. You won the prize for the first touchdown and although not warranted, have been given a lot of extra prizes for the touchdown that was negated by a flag. They should both be happy with what they got and tone down their criticism. I was shocked when I heard their interviews.

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