Rose, Ellingson “discipline” an absolute joke

Photo Scott Grant /
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

As the CFL prepares itself to deal with a new player disciplinary issue following Simoni Lawrence’s late hit on Zach Collaros, the league finally spoke about some old players disciplinary rulings and they are, quite frankly, an absolute joke.

Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Jonathan Rose and Edmonton receiver Greg Ellingson will both escape suspensions and instead be fined for their respective transgressions last year.

Rose was initially suspended for the Grey Cup after two-hand shoving an official in the East Final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but appealed and played in the game where the Redblacks fell to the Calgary Stampeders.

For those who forget what Rose did, it was this:

Ellingson was involved in an off-field incident when he failed to provide a breath sample when he was stopped by police in December. The only punishment that Ellingson suffered until his fine was announced was being banned from team activities… after the season had ended. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.

Both rulings that came down Friday are laughably lenient. Ellingson’s a little less so than Rose’s, but the league could have followed the precedent set by the Riders, who suspended Charleston Hughes for a game last season for almost the exact same thing Ellingson is alleged to have done. But instead they choose to give Ellingson a simple slap on the wrist. Even calling it a slap on the wrist might be too harsh. It was more like a light tap on the shoulder.

While it occurred off the field, driving while inebriated is a reckless, selfish thing to do, and while Ellingson will have his day in court, the league did not have to wait for that to happen to properly discipline him. The bare minimum should have been what Hughes got, a one-game suspension, and the league couldn’t even get that right when the precedent was staring you in the face.

And yes, before you yell at me, I am aware that Hughes’ suspension was a team-issued one, but if you don’t think the league was going to step in if the Riders didn’t, I don’t know what to say.

But, and this should be obvious, the much more disturbing and indefensible ruling was the one handed to Jonathan Rose. The idea that Rose agreed to a fine as part of his appeal is appalling. Rose should thank his lucky stars all he got was a fine because the penalty deserved to be much harsher. Just ask Kent Austin and Will Hill what touching an official gets you. And while I don’t think we should judge these things on degrees — I think placing your hands on a ref should be an automatic one-game ban, and it should go up depending on the severity of the contact — what Rose did was indefensible, and the league being OK with it, makes it even more baffling.

And make no mistake about it, the league handing Rose just a max fine is basically them saying they are fine with players placing their hands on officials.

There are few rules that are sacrosanct across all sports, but one of them is that a player or coach is to never touch or strike an official, and if you do, as we saw with Austin and Hill, you sit out for a game. It is as cut and dry as it gets, You simply do not put your hands on an official.

But apparently that is no longer the case in the CFL, and now a player can do whatever they want to an official and the punishment should only be a max fine – one half of a game cheque. If the league couldn’t see fit to uphold their own suspension when a player two hand shoves a ref, then it makes their initial rulings on almost anything completely meaningless.

I get that the union has a job, and that job is to represent their players, so I don’t fault them, or even Rose, for appealing. I don’t fault the Redblacks for continuing to play Rose. It’s not their job to dispense justice when the league has already ruled on the matter.

No, the only place where blame should land is on the desk of the people in charge on the league. Reversing Rose’s suspension is unfathomable.

When Austin slapped a ref, and also when Hill grabbed one, there was a growing concern that unless a stiff penalty was handed down that it could mean open season on officials. That never came to be, because while I think any punishment should be extreme in these types of situations, missing one game cheque — and in Austin’s case being fined $10,000 — is far from a token gesture. While I think the suspension for contacting an official should be higher, I think most people can live with a one-game ban.

But now the penalty will simply be a fine of one half a game cheque. That is ludicrously small, and the precedent is now set going forward that the only punishment a player can receive is that.

Oh, and if you do it in a playoff game, don’t worry, you will still get to play in the remaining games. The arbitration system is inept and everything will get swept under the rug during the off-season because the people in charge of the league will bank on fans and media forgetting what happened.

The last year or so has seen the CFL flub a couple of supplemental disciplinary cases — shall we rehash the laughably bad excuse the league gave for not suspending Anthony Cioffi for headhunting last season? — but this one might be the worst.

It just goes against everything you learn in sports to see an official get manhandled by a player and then see that player get off almost scot-free.

The league should be ashamed of itself, but we know they won’t be. They will move along like nothing happened because that is what the CFL does. They don’t get in front of stuff like this; instead, they act like it didn’t happen and hope that it just goes away. It’s pathetic and makes the CFL look like the minor league many of its detractors claim it is.

We expect better from the CFL, and we should demand better from them, too. We, as fans and pundits, should always hold their feet to the fire when they do something so monumentally poor that it becomes impossible to defend them.

By amending their discipline, the league has done a disservice to its fans, its players and, most importantly, its officials. It might be going too far to say it is open season on the refs, but it is damn near close. And if anything like what Rose did happens again, the CFL will have no one to blame but themselves.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.