Former CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge experienced racism while running the league

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Jeffrey Orridge was the first black commissioner of the CFL and experienced racism during his two-year stint with the league.

Orridge stepped down as commish after he and the board of governors agreed to part ways officially on June 30, 2017.

“It was not the CFL as an institution. But the CFL did not have the requisite support structure for people of colour because they didn’t have many in administrative or executive positions,” Orridge told CBC reporter Devin Heroux.

From Heroux’s report: The CFL declined to respond to a CBC Sports request for comment on Orridge’s description of his tenure.

Orridge’s reign at the top was cut short. In April 2017, after just two years on the job, he stepped away from the position, citing “differing views” with the board about the future of the league. 

“You need internal and external support,” he said. “And when you don’t feel like you’re getting that level of support, then it becomes even more challenging.”

Then there were the not-so-subtle attacks — letters written to Orridge while he was commissioner, mailed to his home, one in particular he remembers.

“It was laced with hate. It talked about the fact that I’m not from here, that I will never be part of Canada, that I cannot possibly reflect who the CFL is,” said Orridge, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., during the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and experienced the overt racism common in the U.S. at the time. “And then there was the not-so veiled threat of I better ‘watch my back’ when I come into [a] particular city.”

Orridge was a pioneer in Canadian sports as the first black commissioner of the CFL and his place in history paved the way for others to follow in the future.