I had no reaction.
I stared at my phone in staggered disbelief as I read the headline that Art Briles had been hired by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
I couldn’t believe it was actually happening so I just sat in stunned silence for a while.
Then I saw the CFL tweet it. I read the article that listed all of his accomplishments and made ZERO mention of his transgressions or the reason he is no longer a coach at Baylor University.
It was then, as it usually does in cases like these, the fury came.
Art Briles is not someone I want anywhere near anything that I enjoy.
If you don’t know, Briles was the head coach of the very successful football team at Baylor University in Texas. His football knowledge is unquestionable. His morals, however, are a completely different story.
Though never convicted of any crimes, a report conducted by Baylor found that Briles had failed to act several sexual assault allegations against his players including an alleged gang rape committed by five players.
He was fired for it.
Fired for showing a blatant disregard for the rights of the women allegedly terrorized by his football players in favour of, well, winning.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Art Briles decided that his football program was more important than the rights and safety of women.
If this hiring stands, how do the Tiger-Cats and the CFL turn to the female fans of this league and say we respect you.
I want be clear, the CFL is not the only league that has problems like this.
It is incredibly tiresome to be a woman and a sports fan.
Everywhere you turn leagues make decisions that make you feel less valued than your male counterparts.
When they decide to make jerseys in women’s sizes but they only come in pink.
When they suspend a player for abusing his wife or girlfriend for a couple of games, but his teammate gets half a season for steroids.
When serial abusers get second and third chances and its swept under the rug because “it’s in the past now.”
When a disgraced coach who was fired in shame can get hired in Canada as if no one will notice or care.
And I care.
I cover this league every day. I love this league.
I love it for its quirks. I love it for its diversity. I love it for its scrappy personalities, its fighters, its spirit.
But how do I love it after this?
How do I love it when the league is sending a message to me and to all its fans that it doesn’t take the rights and safety of women seriously.
Just two weeks ago I watched with pride as the league rolled out its Diversity is Strength campaign.
“What a beautiful message to send at a difficult time,” I thought.
How can this league send such a strong message on diversity, race and unity on one hand and slap all its female fans in the face with the other?
Now the league has a chance to send another message.
One that tells its fans that men like Art Briles are not welcome here.
– Arielle Zerr is a career journalist who covers the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CJME radio in Regina.