Commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the league is conducting an internal review to determine how a CFL player was able to play an entire season while facing serious criminal charges, including sexual assault.
Defensive lineman Euclid Cummings was charged last April with four serious criminal offences stemming from incidents in Vancouver on Oct. 16, 2016 when he was a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Bombers have acknowledged they were aware of the investigation and informed the league but Cummings was still allowed to play the entire 2017 season with the Eskimos.
The CFL, the Eskimos and the B.C. Lions, who signed Cummings to a free agent contract in February, all say they were unaware of the charges until recently. Ambrosie voided Cummings’ contract on March 7.
“I think we do have to take this whole experience and do our own investigation and try and understand at every point, what did we know and what could we have done with that information that would have made the process better?” Ambrosie said Friday while at CFL Week. “I think this gives us the opportunity for reflection. I can’t tell you today the key learnings from the experience and what adjustments we should make. But we need to be very introspective on this and we have to be tough on ourselves.”
Cummings is charged with sexual assault, assault and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm to one person and the sexual assault of another.
“I think if a player is involved in a situation where clearly something bad has happened, something violent has happened, something that involves women and children, you’d want a moment to say ‘I know enough to know what we should do and we’re going to follow our policy,’” Ambrosie saod.
B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono called the situation “embarrassing” but said teams are limited in what they can do in vetting players.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the manpower to be able to go out and investigate every player, every employee that we hire,” he said. “We don’t always have access to all the information you hope to have. It was obviously a well-kept secret.
“It was dealt with the way it should have been dealt with. I feel bad for the player but you always have to be responsible for your actions.”
Buono said he doesn’t think the incident should reflect poorly on the team or the league but acknowledged that the changing climate around issues of harassment, sexual violence and accountability have resulted in new pressures and responsibilities.
“The things are at the forefront of sports, it’s not just our league. If you look at what’s happening in the world, what’s happening with all these Hollywood-type guys, it’s a major issue,” Buono said.
“Society is demanding more of sports today than I think they have in my lifetime and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re going to have to raise our game to meet these ever-increasing standards.”