DAVIS: By letting Hughes play after impaired charge, the Riders are hypocrites

While watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders practised Thursday it became painfully obvious the people running the community-owned CFL franchise are hypocrites.

Defensive end Charleston Hughes, charged last week with impaired driving and failing to prove a breath sample in the province most intent on stopping impaired driving, was practising with the first-team defence. Chris Jones, the team’s vice-president of football operations, head coach, general manager and defensive coordinator, confirmed with media after practice that Hughes would not be suspended and is expected to start Saturday’s road game against the Calgary Stampeders.

Hughes is having an all-star calibre season and leads the CFL in quarterback sacks as the Roughriders prepare for the Stampeders, who boast the league’s top record and need a victory to fend off the Roughriders’ fight to surpass them in the standings and play host to a postseason game.

It appears the Roughriders no longer abide by the Code of Conduct its previous leaders enacted to deal with these situations. It also appears the Roughriders are more interested in winning football games than they are in being corporate leaders and good community representatives.

Per capita, Saskatchewan records the highest number of impaired drivers of any province. In an effort to curtail the problem the provincial government enacted some of the country’s strictest laws. There’s certainly a reason to argue that the government is being far too strict. With punishments starting at a blood-alcohol content of .04 (the federal law is .08), it’s starting to prevent anyone from having one drink and driving home, to the detriment of liquor-serving businesses across the province. And the tougher legislation seems to be generating lots of revenue for the Crown-owned insurance company, SGI.

But here’s the hypocrisy: The Roughriders visibly support SGI with advertising — in-stadium during each home game and in other media — promoting the crown’s “Safe Ride” program. It advocates taking cabs, having a designated driver, staying overnight rather than driving, not drinking to excess and planning ahead to have a safe ride home.

Unfortunately, lots of people get charged with impaired driving. Almost everybody knows someone who has lost their driver’s licence because of the infraction. Regina Police Service said Hughes was found unresponsive in a vehicle, was believed to be impaired and refused to supply a breath sample.

Hughes told reporters he had never before been charged with impaired driving and that he apologized to his teammates and the organization for his alleged actions two days before the Roughriders lost 31-0 to the home-town Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

This isn’t an indictment of Hughes. It’s not saying he’s guilty; everyone is allowed a fair trial. And it’s not an argument for the Roughriders to cut him, as they have done immediately with other players charged with sexual and assault offences. People deserve a second chance.

So does Hughes, after a short suspension that would prove his employers aren’t hypocrites.

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