First, let’s deal with the elephant-sized poster in the room: Brandon Banks did not miss the start of Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp so he could go to a pool party.
That’s been the rumour floating around social media, fuelled by a poster which showed Banks, in full Ticats’ uniform, as the feature image on promotional material for a pool party held in Raleigh, North Carolina on Sunday, May 29 – the same day as Hamilton opened their 2016 camp.
But that’s not the reason he isn’t at McMaster with the rest of his teammates. Instead, Banks is involved in a family law dispute with the mother of two of his children, a situation he’s trying to resolve before he returns to Canada and resume his football career.
Whether any of this matters – or is anybody’s business but Banks’ – is a legitimate question. But the poster led to increasingly rampant speculation that one of the team’s most popular players had skipped out on his teammates for a few extra days of fun.
The poster came to light almost immediately after the Ticats announced on Sunday that Banks had been placed on the suspended list. A few people tweeted it at Banks and others emailed it to members of the local media .
Banks insisted on Twitter the pool party was held May 22, not this past weekend. However, several social Facebook posts – including some from Banks – show the party was originally scheduled for the 22nd but was subsequently changed to last Sunday.
Whether Banks actually attended the party, or even played a role in its planning, is unknown. It’s not unusual for friends or acquaintances of a sports celebrity – Banks is from Raleigh and was a high school star before playing three seasons with the Washington Redskins – to use them as a draw for events in exchange for a portion of the profits.
Head coach Kent Austin cited “family issues” to explain Banks’ absence and declined to elaborate further. Austin’s statement, combined with Banks’ subsequent social media posts, led some to believe Banks was dealing with a health concern surrounding one of his children. That does not appear to be the case. But outstanding family law issues can make it difficult for American players to obtain the necessary documentation needed to play in Canada.
To be fair, the idea that Banks would skip training camp to attend a pool party never did make a ton of sense. In his two-plus seasons in Hamilton, Banks has exuded a team-first attitude and he’s been one of the Ticats’ most durable and productive players – despite his diminutive stature. He’s been active in the community, accessible to media and engaging and friendly with fans.
If there’s a knock against Banks – and he’d likely be the first guy to acknowledge this – it’s that he hasn’t always made the best and most mature decisions off the field. He’s tried to put much of his troubled past behind him – he almost died from stab wounds suffered in a late-night altercation outside a bar in 2011 – but he’s still only 28-years-old, with plenty of responsibility.
How long Banks will remain absent from the club is an open question as these can be delicate and complex issues. Banks has been, somewhat understandably, reluctant to discuss any of this in detail.
The party and poster are unquestionable bad optics – the timing is terrible – but, placed in context, they don’t feel much like a deliberate attempt to avoid two-a-days. The family issues are inevitably two-sided and, it could be easily argued, nobody else’s business. Without the poster, and ensuing social media activity, it’s highly unlikely we’d be reporting them at all.
They are, however, the reason he isn’t here. And that’s nothing to celebrate, by the pool or anywhere else.