CFLPA says league may be violating labour agreement by suspending players charged with crimes

The CFL Players Association says the league’s decision to suspend players who have been charged with a crime may be in contravention of the collective bargaining agreement.

In statement released Wednesday morning, the CFLPA says it is concerned that the league “has subjectively and on a case-by-case basis imposed sanctions against these players” and is investigating the CFL’s actions.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders released Jerome Messam on July 30 after the Canadian running back was charged with voyeurism and the league subsequently informed teams that it would not register a contract for Messam if he was signed by another club. Earlier in July, national defensive back Teague Sherman was released by the Ottawa Redblacks after being charged with two counts of sexual assault. Last March, B.C. Lions defensive lineman Euclid Cummings had his contract voided by the B.C. Lions after the team and league learned that he’d been charged with four criminal counts including sexual assault in April of 2017. On April 19, 2017, defensive back Justin Cox was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders after information emerged that Cox had been involved in a domestic violence incident.

The CFL constitution gives Randy Ambrosie wide latitude in registering contracts with the league, including a provision that allows him to discipline a player who “brings disrepute to the League or the game of football.” The CBA includes a provision that allows a player to appeal a commissioner’s ruling to an independent arbitrator.

Here’s the statement:

We are aware of serious allegations related to a few CFLPA members that have resulted in police charges, investigations or court processes. Our role as the union is to protect the due process rights of all CFLPA members. In that capacity, we are investigating CFL actions against players who have been identified in these cases. Our concern is that the CFL office has subjectively and on a case-by-case basis imposed sanctions against these players – citing league policies that may be contradictory to the collective bargaining agreement.

We acknowledge the seriousness of the circumstances involving a few of our members, and are reminded that CFL players past and present have worked hard to move forward community initiatives that include ending bullying and violence against women.

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 (1551 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.

47 Comments on CFLPA says league may be violating labour agreement by suspending players charged with crimes

  1. David Tress // August 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm //

    They don’t even wait for a verdict before they issue a suspension. The thing is, if the player isn’t in jail, he should be playing.

    • Jeff Garcia's Agent // August 8, 2018 at 12:28 pm //

      Should he be? A player goes out a rapes 2 women, has been charged, pays his bail but is awaiting trial, he should still be playing even though he isn’t “in jail yet”? Really?!

      I’m not saying he should be cut immediately, rather a suspension while the process handles itself but you want that player representing the league? Wow!

      • Jeff. Or … player accused of raping two women. Trial 18 months later. Women recant. Accused acquitted. Career of innocent person ruined because presumption of innocence that applies to every other person in Canada is denied. The League now operates on a presumption of guilt.

        • BlueBomberChris // August 8, 2018 at 1:47 pm //

          True but Amicus remember you’re always tried in two courts, the court of law and the court of public opinion. Usually the latter is the first to give you a verdict without hearing all the facts/whole story to come out.

          The presumption of innocence only works in the court of law and in this case it is being extended to these players as well. The same can’t be said for public opinion though

        • Jeff Garcia's Agent // August 8, 2018 at 4:38 pm //

          Amicus – Using your example, nobody on the planet gets through that scenario still with the employer they had before all of that. I don’t care if you worked for Amazon or a mom and pop plumbing company, no employer retains your services.

          The league is only operating as you say for felony offences, not misdemeanors (eg Duron Carter). Alleged crimes like domestic violence or sexual crimes like voyeurism in Messam’s case. I will extend an olive branch that a suspension or admin leave, not release, may very well be a better way to handle things. But the league can’t have these people representing the brand because as Chris points out below, the Court of Public Opinion can have a direct and noticeable effect on the brand and financials. A proactive approach in these cases is the smarter option for the league.

          • Jeff. Actually that is not true. If your employer fires you because you are only charged with a crime and not convicted … you have a good case for wrongful dismissal.

            This Court of Public Opinion is more properly known as the “mob” and it is not a good way to administer a just society. Ghomeshi will never work again in his field, but how many people remember that the judge found that all three of his accusers lied. How many people remember that he was acquitted?

            And Ghomeshi was one of the lucky ones … he was actually charged and got his day in court. More commonly the accusation is made … and that is enough to do the damage. This whole “right to face one’s accuser” thing is actually a pretty important bedrock to our civil liberties. We should not throw it away simply because we are impatient to express our disapproval.

            I appreciate your compromise suggestion … that the player be suspended pending trial … might be okay except that the teams cannot afford to pay the player and their replacement … and if the trial takes two seasons to take place … the player’s career is done no matter what the outcome.

            Not many facts have been released on the Messam case … but it is alleged that he made a sex tape of a consensual adult encounter … allegedly without the partner’s permission. There is no suggestion that the sex tape was distributed or that it was being used to blackmail the partner. Perhaps that will come out later. Presumably Messam will argue that his partner consented to the sex tape.

            One can’t be sure but one assumes the police would not have charged him if it was a “he said … she said” situation. Let us hope that there is more to it than just an accusation. But even if he is convicted … unless there are aggravating circumstances he will end up with a suspended sentence in most cases where the tape was made of a consensual act without any publication. But no matter how it all works out a Hall of Fame career disappeared as soon as the charge was made.

        • brian johnson // August 9, 2018 at 10:14 am //

          Police check case out on probability of conviction as do CFL legal team first then make decision IN this case CFL
          did the appropriate thing.

      • You want to convict before a trial?
        Watch some tv shows of people wrongfully convicted.
        There are lots of them.

    • brian johnson // August 9, 2018 at 10:10 am //

      David The players were released/cut not suspended.
      CFL teams can release players as they choose.
      IT”S released. CFL Office then has an option of allowing any players purposed contract approved or not.
      CFL stated that if another team was to sign these players the registration would not be approved at this time. Fairly simple.

    • David Tress is right. Messam’s charge was not like he was found attacking a female and the presumption of innocence in our Charter the Criminal Code of Canada and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada enshrine those principles to ensure people aren’t convicted in the public domain.

      The Supreme Court of Canada enshrined this in a precedent setting case that overturned the old law where a certain amount of illegal drugs got a trafficking charge.

      Oakes was charged with possession for the purposes of trafficking and the SCC ruled in the convicted’s favour:

      R v Oakes, 1986 CanLII 46 (SCC), [1986] 1 SCR 103 (“…The presumption of innocence protects the fundamental liberty and human dignity of any and every person accused by the State of criminal conduct. An individual charged with a criminal offence faces grave social and personal consequences, including potential loss of physical liberty, subjection to social stigma and ostracism from the community, as well as other social, psychological and economic harms. …”)

      But in Canada’s employment laws the rules are less clear and the CFL is crap when it comes to have a clear, transparent policy that lives up to the ideals of Canada and the spirit of the law and the Charter or Rights!!!

      “Constitutional Right
      The right to a presumption of innocence is expressly protected in s. 11(d). It is also implicated in the rights under s. 7 of the Charter to rights of life, liberty and security of the person.[1]

      Under section 11 of the Charter:

      Any person charged with an offence has the right

      (d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;”

      The CFL should not have acted against Messam and it’s right to compare him to Manziel. If Messam wasn’t an aging star who had a lesser role this year versus Manziel would Ambrosie who ‘s showing his arrogance here, have acted to bar Messam from working anywhere in the CFL even though it’s an accusation related to videoing sex?

  2. KarenElyea // August 8, 2018 at 12:27 pm //

    Believe athletes should show a good example for young people to follow sorry don’t agree

  3. I believe there should be due process that is followed by the league on the accused players and right now it is too restrictive. I believe that anytime a player is charged with a criminal code offence they should be placed on the PR and not play in games until the matter is dealt with in court. While on the PR their contract monies should not affect the salary cap which allows replacement on the rosters. If the person deals with the matters and is found not guilty then they rotate back onto the roster. There is too much credibility risk for the CFL to allow players who have alleged to have committed crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault etc are allowed to continue to play. This would be a balanced and fair approach for all parties. Keep in mind when police lay charges the accused certainly committed the offence it just has to be proven in court. Just because someone is found not guilty at court means they are ONLY legally not guilty and doesn’t mean they did not do the act of violence but simply cannot be proven…….Food for thought!

    • Good points and suggestions made by Josh.

      Just curious, what actions are taken by other leagues for similar circumstances?

    • If the cops charge someone they certainly committed the crime?? Are you serious? We have hundreds of examples of mistaken arrests and charges that disprove that nonsense.

      It’s frightening to see how many people eagerly desire to live in an authoritarian state.

    • TheLastArgoFan // August 8, 2018 at 1:39 pm //

      “Keep in mind when police lay charges the accused certainly committed the offence it just has to be proven in court.”

      Your argument just lost all credibility with the above statement.

    • Josh. Wow. If you are prepared to assume that everyone charged is guilty … of something … then (a) why bother with trials (b) why put the accused on the PR … just hang ’em and be done with it. ;]

  4. HelloNeuman // August 8, 2018 at 12:34 pm //

    If a player is charged, they should be suspended. I know we like ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but these are higher profile players who should be worthy of respect. If they can’t keep their noses clean enough to avoid criminal charges, then I don’t have much patience for them. I think the real problem is that some charges are acceptable (i.e. Carter) and some are bad (i.e. Messam). There are lots of players out there, save the limited spaces for quality people who can also play football.

  5. Don’t think anyone here would accept termination from their employer after being charged with an offense, without even having their day in court. Be interesting to see how this plays out.

  6. League has finally come out against the exploitation of women. Pot infractions are going to be dealt with leniently as possession will be legal this year although both are illegal now.

  7. Innocent until proven guilty!!!!

  8. Going by the statement do the CFLAPA care if it is violence against men or animals. I thought men and woman are equal. No on deserves to bullied or be attacked. Why must women be singled out? I understand that the allegations involve women but was it required to say that. It seems like in a society that says we are all equal we keep singling out genders and/or nationalities. To me the statement would have been much more powerful by simply leaving off the last two words. Instead of me too how about everyone.

  9. I’m with the camp that says yes to the suspension but no to the termination of the contract. I think being charged with an offence like this would make them too much of a distraction to the team and the league to keep playing, but you shouldn’t be able to take away their income or terminate their contract based on a charge alone. I think they should be suspended with pay until the matter is settled in court.

    • BleedzGreen // August 8, 2018 at 7:06 pm //

      I’m with the same camp. As for your suggestion regarding suspension pay, IMO it shouldn’t count against the cap. Moreover, and in fairness to the suspended player’s team, I think the CFLPA (and/or its insurer) should foot part of the bill.

      • Agreed on both of your other points. There aren’t that many cases like this that it would add up to a huge amount of money in any event, but having the league pay I think protects all parties. For example, if a team heard that a charge like this might be forthcoming they could conceivably release the player ahead of time to avoid having to pay his salary during his suspension. But if the league was responsible for the salary then there would be no benefit from doing that.

  10. The CFLPA is 100% right on this. I am a professional management side labour relations practitioner. The fundamental issue is that a police/criminal investigation is irrelevant in the employment context. The CFL (like any employer) has an obligation to do its own employment investigation using the charges as the basis to investigate.

    They can then reach a conclusion on whether just cause for discipline exists and what the quantum of that discipline should be independent of the criminal process. An employer cannot and should not ever abdicate their ability to do their own investigation to the criminal justice system. The reason is pretty straightforward: all civil and administrative law carries the “balance of probabilities” as the standard of proof where criminal law uses the much higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. An acquittal or dropped criminal charges mean nothing in the employment context. Further, what employer should wait months or years to determined the appropriate employment outcome?

    The CFL is a amateur clown show and the CFLPA is finally acting like a professional trade union. About fricking time.

    • That’s a very good point, but this probably explains why the league is doing what they’re doing, no? With these types of charges, based on the “balance of probabilities”, something worthy of termination has likely happened. Justin Cox was acquitted, for example, but enough came out about what happened that we knew that he handn’t been innocent of wrong doing. And off the top of my head I believe most players are convicted when charged with such crimes. So, based on the charges alone, the “balance of probabilities” probably gives the employer the right to fire the employee. Have I got that right?

    • Quint. Fair enough. You make a good point that the employment aspect is a civil action … in this case a matter that can be grieved under the collective bargaining agreement. The employer will have the burden of proof to show on a balance of probabilities that the player was engaged in an activity (whether or not a crime) that gives the employer the right to terminate his employment under the collective agreement.

      All good with that, but the lower standard of proof does not mean that the employer is entitled to simply accept the word of the accuser or the fact that the police laid a charge as conclusive. In the Messam case I suspect that the employer did not independent investigation … it made its decision entirely from a PR perspective. The employer must have the burden of proof to make a case that “on balance of probabilities” convinces the arbitrator. If all the team has is an accusation … it does not satisfy the burden of proof.

      I agree the matter should be handled as a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement … let the player play until the arbitration case is decided … expedite the process so that it is done within in 90 days.

  11. Evil Empire // August 8, 2018 at 1:43 pm //

    Oh there’s a freaking shock. The union that cares more about the perpetrator than the victim, isn’t happy about this.

    As it’s an entertainment business, the public perception is paramount. Many players have been charged with crimes, and not been suspended.

    But, the cases in the article are SEX crimes. Or, violence against women. And, that is a whole different matter. It brings a very bad light to the league. And, the league needs to distance itself from things like this.

    Innocent until proven guilty, blah blah blah.

    Maybe if any player is charged with a criminal code offence, they should be suspended. I don’t know, and it’s not my call. But, in these cases, there had to be suspensions. The CFL has many female fans. And, the league cannot appear to condone crimes perpetrated against a woman. Even just alleged ones. If you don’t understand that, I don’t know what to tell you.

    So, I’d say it’s fair to suspend a player. But, if in the future the player is exonerated. The league should have to pay the player his contracted salary for any time missed. Sounds fair to me.

  12. Riding the Horse // August 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm //

    Innocent until proven guilty. That’s what I’ve said all along. That’s why Huff was absolutely right in not automatically cutting ties with Tommy Campbell and Roy Finch.
    Other’s who decide to virtue signal by cutting the accused, instead of respecting our charters and due process, are wrong!

  13. If you think the CFL is a amateur clown show, don’t watch

    • I said that about the league, not the players on the on field product. The league itself is run like an amateur clown show, with incompetent leadership, poor branding, terrible officiating, and no clear strategy who continue to allow their sole broadcast partner to use third rate production values making the product look bush league.

      None of that detracts from the quality of the players and coaches. Don’t be a sh thead.

      • You did not define the difference between the product on the field and the folks who run the league. Had you clarified the difference I may not have made the comment. Also I did not call you any sort name, and would appreciate a little more respect.

        • Fair point, the name was uncalled for.

          I don’t agree with the rest of your comment because you cherry picked my post for the express purpose of singling out the sentence when the commentary was clearly about the league office.

  14. IMO Jerome Messam case really acted in haste. Suspension perhaps. But being judge , jury and executioner, well somehow doesn’t fit with “innocence until proven guilty in our courts”. IMO the CFLPA may have valid point.

  15. MR. Green // August 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm //

    Touchy subject. No right answer. In Messams case, it was comsentual, except for ,maybe, the video. No one knows. He isn’t getting sued yet from what I hear. If it ends in a lawsuit, then I think she was looking for money all along. If not, and he plays while guilty, which we don’t find out till later, everyone rips the league.
    Point is, stay out of tough circumstances. Or get her to sign something first. The league needs to protect itself and IMO, had no choice but to do what they did. If he’s innocent, Messam sue’s likely. It’s a no win all around. Someone made a good point last week, at least she can’t say rape.
    Lesson learned for everyone, protect yourself, sign papers and you’re ok.

  16. Did the Rider organization and/or the league perform an investigation prior to the release of Messam. The Incident happened over a year ago while he was a member of the Stamps. I would imagine both the Riders and CFL completed an investigation and came to a reasonable conclusion regardless of the criminal process that he did in fact commit the offence, but nothing has been said to confirm the investigation was done.

    • Mac …. excellent point. good question. If the Riders and the League really made an independent investigation and came to the conclusion that Messam did something to violate the CBA … good for them and justice has been served … subject to Messam’s right to grieve the termination before an arbitrator.

    • This is exactly what they should have done. If they did, then it’s a reasonable decision.

  17. Eddy Rayner // August 8, 2018 at 4:47 pm //

    In this “Me Too” era, the league is acting to protect its brand … as it should. The players in question are getting the same Matt Lauer treatment. Does the CFLPA really want to be on the wrong side of this current moral issue?!

  18. dangnabbit // August 8, 2018 at 5:17 pm //

    Here’s the thing – imagine Messam gets exonerated and chooses to sue the CFL for wrongful termination. The league’s argument is basically that the player brought disrepute to the CFL or football in general, which is the condition under which the CBA allows them to not honour his contract. The player would now argue that it wasn’t he who brought disrepute on the game, but rather those who made the accusations and laid the charges of which he was acquitted. They could justify suspending him out of an abundance of caution if they thought he might harass a fan, reporter, trainer, or whoever because it opens the league up to liability. But I imagine the league would have a hard time convincing the jury they felt he was a threat to women in the workplace merely because he was accused of surreptitiously taping himself with his girlfriend.

  19. Every employer in Canada, as per provincial statues, has the right to suspend and or terminate an employee with cause for conduct that fails to meet an employers polices or practices. No CBA can circumvent these provincial acts and in fact the employment standards acts within each province would supersede any CBA. The CFLPA is testing the waters, but will find that provincial sanctions of their union may just be waiting them on the other side of that test.

  20. Yeh, but what if the conduct you speak of never happened? Just imagine for a minute it was some Psychco like Red on here that is just spewing out of nowhere and there is zero accuracy to the incriminating statement, and it ends up being a figment of the imagination of the accuser. We’v all seen that play our umpteen times on here since, well, yesterday, with our resident nutjob.

    • Riding the Horse // August 8, 2018 at 9:32 pm //

      Or people accusing a coworker of living in his Mom’s basement, and having relations with her and his nieces????
      That kinda spew??

  21. Slowly but surely the CFL is following the footsteps of the NFL…felons, felons everywhere. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s you didn’t hear about this kind of shit. Sad.

  22. There is always a gray area when it comes to presumption of innocence and employment or holding public office for example. Some accusations should lead to someone stepping down and some not.

    But it’s dangerous ground in the Messam case as he’s been judged guilty by the CFL and it’s a charge related to whether a video of sex was consensual. That’s vastly different than someone charged for assaulting a person.

    The MeToo movement is to right wrongs and fix power balances that should be present in work places etc BUT we are seeing cases in courts these days that clearly shouldn’t be there and the CFL acting here where it shouldn’t.

    It’s disgraceful that Messam’s being denied employment while he’s in his later career stages and of course many fans believe that if he’s been charged and the CFL suspends him he’s definitely guilty. All that is what the Charter is supposed to protect Canadians from !

  23. Guilty untill proven innocent.wwww

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