CFL lacks transparency, accountability in Cummings case

There’s little doubt that the CFL did the right thing in voiding the contract of former B.C. Lions defensive lineman Euclid Cummings this week after learning that he was facing serious criminal charges, including sexual assault.

The question is what took them so long to get him out of the league?

The timeline of Cummings’ legal troubles raises some serious concerns surrounding the league’s diligence in monitoring the occasionally troubling behaviour of its players. For a league that has repeatedly portrayed itself as forward-thinking and progressive on issues of domestic and sexual violence, the fact that a player facing criminal charges of this magnitude suited up for an entire season is a significant concern.

Cummings has been charged with four criminal counts stemming from incidents in Vancouver that allegedly occurred on Oct. 16, 2016. His team at the time, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers played a regular season game at B.C. Place on Oct. 14 and had a bye the following week, which would explain why Cummings was still in the city two days after an away game.

The Bombers say they were informed of the ongoing investigation by Vancouver Police the following month and passed that information onto the league. If that’s accurate – and the CFL has not refuted the team’s version of events – then the league was aware of a potential issue involving Cummings some 18 months ago.

Cummings, having left the Bombers and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in February of 2017, was charged the following April with sexual assault, assault and uttering threats. Those charges were never made public by the Vancouver Police, as sometimes happens in cases with a public interest, or reported by local media. He is set to go to trial in October.

Both the Eskimos and Lions are adamant that they knew nothing about the criminal investigation or charges and Ed Hervey, the general manager of both clubs at the time that Cummings signed, has also denied any wrongdoing.

Still, the question remains: if the league was aware of a criminal investigation regarding one of its players as earlier as November 2016, why didn’t they follow up with Vancouver police or the Crown Attorney’s office regarding the outcome?

Had the CFL followed up with the case, at the very minimum they could have subjected Cummings to the league’s domestic and sexual violence policy. Instead, Cummings was able to play an entire season while facing serious criminal charges, including sexual assault, which is incongruous with what’s happened in other recent cases.

Former Saskatchewan Roughrider Justin Cox was barred from the CFL by former commissioner Jeffery Orridge after being charged with domestic violence and kept out of the league following his acquittal. His replacement, Randy Ambrosie, prevented quarterback Johnny Manziel, whose domestic violence charge was ultimately dismissed after a plea deal that included counselling, from entering the CFL last fall until he met certain unspecified conditions. Ambrosie made it clear after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hired Art Briles that the former Baylor coach, who was forced to resign amid a sexual assault scandal at the school, was not welcome in the league.

And yet Euclid Cummings played entire season facing serious criminal charges that the league, with one phone call, would have known about.

The CFL’s response to the Cummings controversy has left plenty to be desired as well. After issuing their initial statement on their decision to void the contract – which did not include any details on how that was even possible – the league has stonewalled all media inquiries for clarification on why Cummings was allowed to play last season (and it’s not just 3Down, they’re not responding to anyone.)

Even straightforward football questions surrounding the status of Cummings’ signing bonus and salary cap implications, as insignificant as they may be in light of the other serious issues at play, remain unanswered.

The league, the teams and the CFLPA have used the fact that the Cummings’ case is ongoing as justification to avoid comment while also using the publication ban, which covers the names of the alleged victims, as a similar shield. Neither of these things prevent the CFL, the teams or the CFLPA from addressing the issues surrounding Cummings’ contract or his status a with the league. It certainly doesn’t prevent the CFL from explaining what went wrong.

This is becoming a pattern. The CFL did not fully explain its vetting process for Manziel which, it emerged later, did not include any attempt to reach out to his domestic violence victim. Nor did it clarify how Briles was allowed to be hired in the first place or what’s being done to prevent a similar situation in the future. Ambrosie wants us to have faith the league is doing the right things as opposed to clearly demonstrating it.

Ambrosie just finished a cross-country tour of all nine CFL cities that featured lots of talk about the importance of transparency and I believe the league is genuinely trying to deal with issues of domestic and sexual violence in a proactive way. But by failing to address important questions that surround the Cummings case, the CFL threatens to undermine its credibility on both these fronts.

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.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1570 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.

49 Comments on CFL lacks transparency, accountability in Cummings case

  1. the paw // March 9, 2018 at 3:48 pm //

    well said Drew. I can understand that evolving the social posture of pro sports from the Stone Age into the present is not easily done, and I don’t expect the policies and protocols to be perfect right off the hop. But when they are found inadequate, greater transparency during the correction would go a long way.

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  2. The man representative as league commissioner (other officials) out of touch it appears to such issue and incapable of transparent redress on behalf of the 9 team league it represents. Professional football league? in question.

  3. I would think that the legal dynamics of the situation have the league in a holding pattern as to what can, can’t or be discussed at this stage. All eyes are on this and it will set a precedent moving forward.

    • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 4:46 pm //

      What can and can’t be discussed? Edwards is correct: everyone uses “ongoing case” as a shield and an excuse to not say anything. What difference does it make if this is an ongoing case or not? How is anything that is said by the league regarding what they knew in 2017 going to change anything in the case? It sounds like someone is covering their tracks.

  4. Edward Leslie // March 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm //

    I’m suspicious of Ed Hervey. I find it hard to believe that he signed this guy TWICE (Edmonton AND B.C.) without knowing about him. Einnipeg says they knew, and informed the CFL. It seems everybody knew… except “Clueless” Ed Hervey.
    Given his anti- media troubles with Edmonton, maybe he felt that “Nobody is telling me who to sign.”

    • As bad as it looks for Ed Hervey, unless someone comes forward to say they informed Hervey there is a good chance he didn’t know about it. Assuming, of course, that E. Cummings didn’t volunteer the information during contract talks.

    • You have never heard of “innocent until proven guilty”?
      We have no idea of what happened in this case.

  5. I may be old-fashioned, but whatever happened to “due process” – you’re innocent until proven guilty? How would you feel if you got canned without a trial? So much for justice – string ’em up, boys! If this were a police officer or a politician, they’d be suspended until charges were heard – with pay! That’s how you handle public-image and trust issues. In the Trump era, rush-to-judgement by trial of public opinion is epidemic!

    • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 4:50 pm //

      This is exactly what happened to Justin Cox. Cox was subsequently acquitted and was still refused entry into the league.

      • True story Puck Hog. Seems that these two issues have Orridge in common.

        • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 5:52 pm //

          Orridge!!

        • The thing that’s different about the Cox case is that he had a history. In college he was charged with “burglary and domestic violence” as well. The first charge was pled down to trespassing and the second was “dropped at the victim’s request”. IIRC, in the case in Regina he was clearly in some kind of unhealthy relationship where there was some kind of domestic violence, but that it may have gone both ways so they determined that no crime had been committed. Jones had apparently seen enough, or knew enough, that he didn’t want him back, and that’s his right, but the league’s call on Cox was interesting, because he was actually acquitted. So,not a first time or one-off situation for him. Two similar cases, but in both cases he was not ultimately convicted of the domestic violence charges, but something unhealthy and violent had clearly been going on. Is that enough to justify the league banning him? For me I’m going to say yes, but it’s a very close call, and if he agreed to go though some kind of domestic violence course I would be inclined to let him back into the league.

          • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 6:42 pm //

            If he wasn’t convicted, then how can you say something unhealthy was going on. There would be no need for him to go to a domestic violence course if there was no violence going on. You can speculate all you want, but he was cleared in a court of law.

          • It becomes a judgement call, and that’s where it gets tricky. I think it’s generally acknowledged that violence was going on in that relationship in Regina, but there was nothing that warranted a criminal conviction. So, how far can the league go with judgement calls like this?
            cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/former-roughriders-justin-cox-not-guilty-1.4137052

            And as a bit of additional information, there was actually a third charge that I had forgotten about.
            espn.co.uk/nfl/story/_/id/13294949/justin-cox-kansas-city-chiefs-arrested-assault-charge

    • B.C. Dave // March 12, 2018 at 7:25 pm //

      I agree with you but at the same time a business supporting a guy with FOUR SERIOUS charges causes the public to turn on the company so now they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Remember, he was not technically “fired”, he is contract was voided, IE it did not happen. The means he is closer to being suspended pending results and welcome back, again pending result of trial).

      I know it can sound like semantics but I believe there is grey area here and the “guilty until …” should be respected. That goes for not just Cummings but whoever dropped the ball here. I know to me, it APPEARS that the buck stops at the league for lack of follow up after being informed of the investigation by the Bombers.

      I think the league could have caused US serious damage had they done this 2 months from now. With the draft and all of our free agency camps still in the future (we did have one yesterday in LA) it gives us a chance to recruit for that position still. I will be extremely ticked and will communicate with the league if they force us to take a $70k cap hit. If we signed him know of the charges, different story but I do not believe we knew or the Eskimos knew. Both teams are known to character as much as talent (probably others too but being a Lion fan and living in Edmonton, I know them better than others).

  6. I am not trying to defend Mr. Cummings but I have some concern that everyone seems to have overlooked a fundamental of our justice system. We are innocent until proven guilty. According to everything written on this site the man has been found guilty.
    Let us suppose that during the week before the Grey Cup, a woman comes forth accusing the quarterback of the favoured team of all sorts of horrible actions. How do we handle that?
    I suppose you might be tempted to say “but where’s the proof?”
    Where’s the proof we have to convict Mr. Cummings in the court of public opinion?
    Just a thought to provoke more thought.

    • As I mentioned in the podcast thread, my guess is that the contract was voided not because of the charges but because the charges weren’t reported. But Edward’s main point here is that we don’t know exactly why the contract was voided. There is a lack of transparency. I’m going to cut Ambrosie some slack because I think he’s still cleaning things up from before he took over, but I agree that changes need to be made to the way the league deals with situations like this.

    • Confused // March 9, 2018 at 6:55 pm //

      There’s usually much more to a situation than what’s been proven or not proven in a court of law. Many of us, including the Riders and the players, knew perfectly well that there was more to the Cox case. MUCH MORE. Believe me, you wouldn’t want him within a 10000 miles of any of your female relatives regardless of the outcome of his court case!

      • And that’s why I think it’s totally fair that Chris Jones said he didn’t want anything to do with this guy anymore. But he’s the HC and GM of a team and if he doesn’t want you for any reason you’re gone, no explanation needed. The league, otoh, needs something more black and white to rely on. They need a rule, or at least guidelines. In Cox’s case I think the third case I found above makes it a much easier call for me, although how you would write that rule out may still be a bit tricky.

      • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 7:19 pm //

        So, then, do we judge on the basis of gossip and innuendo, courts be damned? Does the league ban someone who has been cleared in a court of law but rumoured to be guilty? I don’t think too many of us would be satisfied with this if it happened to us. Just saying.

        • Garney26 // March 9, 2018 at 9:35 pm //

          Why not same thing was done in Hamilton with Briles. The whole idea that we feel in this day and age we need to be told every detail? And I agree what happened to judicial process! Innocent until proven guilty.

  7. dangnabbit // March 9, 2018 at 4:46 pm //

    > There’s little doubt that the CFL did the right thing

    I guess I’m in the minority then? The man has never, as far as I can tell, been convicted of anything regarding this incident or any other. But the league decided to prevent him from playing anyway, and if a player averages a decade-long career, that’s a tenth of his total. Look at nearly any football record, and you’ll find it no longer holds the top spot when diminished by 10%; basically, this guy has been forever barred from having his name in the history books. What recourse does he have if he’s acquitted? He can’t recover the missing year’s pay (and he’ll no doubt have legal bills no matter the outcome), and he can’t recover the opportunity to become an all-time great.

    “to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law”
    Charter of Rights and Freedoms 11

    • Dangnabbit – it’s 2018, it’s a frightening trend for people to be found guilty in the media rather than being tried in a court of law.

    • Wild guess here, but I’m thinking Cummings’ top concern at the moment is NOT his quest for the all-time sacks record. (He current sits at 20 after 4 seasons.)

  8. Citizens must be innocent until proven guilty in courts of the land. However, we all noticed lately that social media appears to rule. Anyone watched political news lately? Citizens thrown under the bus by accusations on social media alone. Wow, dangerous times.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // March 9, 2018 at 7:21 pm //

      This is certainly the case. It is reminiscent of stories I heard from people who lived in Germany in the 1930s and the culture of denunciation that existed. “Sent to a concentration camp because of a Twitter campaign started by crazy keyboard warriors” becomes a possibility. I believe Euclid Cummings was wrong for his misleading of his employers, but the league looks arbitrary at best for their handling of this situation. It would have been better if Ambrosie and Hervey had had a joint presser to express shock, surprise and dismay in public then followed with the voiding press release later. The lack of emotion to begin this leads us to question whether they knew beforehand.

  9. greenenvy? // March 9, 2018 at 8:24 pm //

    Bottom line an employer can release you whether or not you are ultimately guilty of a crime. As for Hervey, whether he knew or not is irrelevant. Contracts have to be given final approval by the league & can be voided as has been illustrated a few times recently. If the league knew then they should face the music.

    • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 8:51 pm //

      An employer cannot simply end ones employment without cause or they can find themselves in a hot mess of litigation.

      • greenenvy? // March 9, 2018 at 10:27 pm //

        They can, Puck Hog, as long as they pay whatever is legally required under the terms of a contract. If they don’t want you to work there, they don’t have to keep you. You may or may not be entitled to benefits etc..

  10. OldBaldGuy // March 9, 2018 at 8:25 pm //

    Besides Big Ed’s incoherent post way up at the top, most of the points are good ones. Let’s say you ran a company with big public profile and an employee is accused of doing something bad that probably will disparage your company. What do you do? It’s easy to say…well…let’s let the courts fight it out while the perception of your company goes into the toilet…a company that depends on the public’s wallet to balance your books. Easy to say, I think the courts need to decide, which is a proper thing to do. But…the reality is that if there is smoke there is probably fire, and if I was running the company, Cummings gets suspended without pay. If he is innocent, he collects back pay. If he is guilty, he waves goodbye.

    • Seems it’s all about public perception these days rather than guilty or not guilty.

  11. Drew, until recently, it was an investigation based on allegations. You are confusing charges (laid) with allegations and an investigation. You can’t terminate someone because of allegations. It’s called due process. Unless behaviour stipulations are written into the contract, the CFL was wise to wait.

  12. Wet Coast // March 9, 2018 at 9:40 pm //

    One running misconception through many of the comments is that this is about “innuendo” or “accusations” or “public perception”, when in fact the situation has had a police investigation that has resulted in charges – serious charges – and a publication ban. This is not to say that Mr. Cummings is yet guilty of a crime, but this rises to far more than a he-said-she-said or social media thing at this point.

    The other element that floors me is that some people think that charges being dropped, dismissed or a person not found criminally guilty cannot still be deemed to be a risk to an employer or others around them. While something might not rise to a legal standard of proof, witnesses may get cold feet, or deals are struck, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some fire behind the smoke. Yes, there are wrongfully accused people that are fully innocent, and there is also an entire spectrum in between that and legally being found guilty. With that, and with every other bit of conduct, players, like most employees are being judged for fit, character, etc.

    I agree with the ultimate point of the article – the CFL has some explaining to do for its inaction when seemingly informed of what was going on right after the alleged incident occurred. It is troubling to see that there has not been more transparency on certain aspects that are not directly tied to the legal proceedings.

    • Puck Hog // March 9, 2018 at 10:29 pm //

      One misconception that you hold is how the rule of law operates. Our society is based on the premise of innocence until proven otherwise in a court of law. I will say it again, if Wet Coast was accused of unsubstantiated acts, and as a result lost his job, I believe he would have a different point of view.

      • Our society use to be based on the premise of innocent until proven guilty. We’ve evolved to terminate the accused rather than appear guilty of inaction

      • Wet Coast // March 12, 2018 at 8:19 pm //

        Absolutely false. Man, unprovoked, shoots another man in a public space with plenty of witnesses. Innocent until the court says he’s guilty?

        Legal guilt and actual guilt are different concepts. I am not advocating changing the justice system, but it is ridiculous to imply that there should be no consequences regarding employment for someone with pending charges for sexual assault. I’m not suggesting that an employer shouldn’t conduct some diligence to try and get to what happened rather than relying on allegations.

        It would be egregious for a wrongfully accused person to lose their job and reputation for something that never happened, but to pretend that nothing happened in the 18 months until a trial occurs would be horrendously irresponsible. We’re not talking about jaywalking here.

        • Puck Hog // March 12, 2018 at 8:42 pm //

          What are you saying is “absolutely false”? The fact that our society is based on the rule of law, where everyone accused of a crime is assured of their day in court? Or are you embracing the concept of the witch hunts of Salem?
          You seem to be speaking out of both sides of your mouth when you state that an emplyer shouldn’t rely on allegations and that due diligence should be done. Don’t you think a court appearance is due diligence?
          For your benefit, I hope you are never wrongly accused of a crime on social media, because it sounds like you are going to waive your day in court!

  13. Innocent until proven guilty!!!

    This article borders on libel. It really should be stated that this is the opinion of the author, not facts as he suggests in his writing style. If I were the CFL or Cummings I would look into suing 3down for this .

  14. In my view, society is still trying to figure out how an employer should react at each stage of gossip/accusation/police investigation/charges laid/verdict delivered. And of course it depends in part on the nature of the alleged crime (which is severe in this case). In my view the club should have investigated as soon as an allegation was made, and the league should have stepped in (at the latest) when charges were laid. That was April 2017, right at the end of Orridge’s reign, and befor Ambrosie … I suspect it fell through the leadership cracks in transition.

  15. Drboom2000 // March 10, 2018 at 12:50 am //

    The court of public opinion nowadays is more powerful the the legal court. With the World Wide Web people convict others on a whim with little regard for the truth or evidence. We now convict instantly out of our own prejudice rather than fact. As soon as someone says anything, be it the truth or not, that person is forever guilty in the court of public opinion. Oops, I tripped over my soapbox

  16. The title of the article is funny . The CFL lacks transparency in everything it does. You guys just figure that out? The MOB could only dream of operating a business the way these 9 “CAPO” do.

    Unethical Neg lists
    Fighting anti-doping agencies
    Union Busting
    Cooking Books

  17. Therein lies the issue with social media. Anyone can post comments about a situation without any facts and it becomes gospel, seemingly forever. The targeted person, people, group or company gets slandered online and the sheep follow blindly. The sheep being people who can’t form their own intelligent thoughts.

  18. Don’t you worry about the CFL, Dad Ambrosie has things under control. Randy will have one of his “Dad talks” with E.Cummings and all will be fine. Trust Father Ambrosie. Truthfully, this looks good on Ambrosie the paternalistic arrogant ass.

  19. The Bombers are the ones to be pointing fingers at. They knew about the allegation, that could have done something. And then we have the media who probably has less scruples than the alleged rapist. Reporting half truths based on little facTS.

  20. Pennyrocker // March 11, 2018 at 1:11 am //

    What happened to suspended based outcome ofpending sexuality charges.

    If the charges came in April then would it not be up to the commission to step in and suspend Cummings and cancel the contract.

    Is the Eskimos that misinformed of who on their router they don’t know the background of their players.

    Harvey know and was covering his tracks by signing Cummings know if caught play dumb.

  21. Hard to believe the league office knew of the situation and possible pending charges along with the Bombers and Vancouver PD BUT it was never PASSED ON to the Eskimos and Lions. A colossal lack of COMMUNICATION or someone is not shooting straight on this matter. Simple as that.

  22. There can be no doubt that the Winnipeg Bkue Bombers did not do the right thing. Upon learning of the situation Cummings should have been immediately suspended. Don’t tell me nobody knew.
    If they could have got the charges dropped and no one found out, would it have been better?
    That is how things used to be.

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