The Ottawa Redblacks have suspended Canadian defensive lineman Chris Larsen.
Larsen was selected by the Redblacks in the sixth round, 54th overall during the 2019 CFL Draft but has yet to make his regular season CFL debut.
“Late last night, we were made aware of social media allegations of an assault by a group of individuals that included Chris Larsen and immediately commenced an investigation which is ongoing. Today we were advised that an investigation by the Toronto Police is underway,” Mark Goudie, CEO of the Redblacks’ parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said in a statement.
“I don’t pretend to know all of the specifics of this incident, but let me say this, the Redblacks and OSEG are proud of the role that we play in our community and we are committed to continuing to build an organization, both on and off the field, that reflects the values of our community.
“Diversity and inclusion are central to our organizational values and we will try our best to use our platform to help make acts of hate and violence, including homophobia, stop. We recognize there are larger systemic issues that plague our society, and as an organization, we know that we can play a role in making our community a more tolerant, respectful, educated and inclusive place.”
“We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
OSEG will have no further comments on this matter while the Toronto Police investigation is ongoing. Police are investigating the alleged hate crime with potential ties to the CFL player after a 24-year-old man was reportedly beaten at the ferry docks on the Toronto Island near Hanlan’s Point on Saturday after being subject to homophobic comments.
According to police, the victim, self-identified as David Gomez, was walking with a 27-year-old woman around 11:30 p.m. ET when they became involved in a disagreement with another group of individuals and a man from the second group began making homophobic comments towards the pair.
A woman from the group grabbed one of the victims, at which point two men began to assault Gomez by punching and kicking him. According to a crowd-funding campaign set up for the victim, Gomez was knocked unconscious, suffering a broken nose, cheekbone and orbital bone while sustaining a concussion and injury to his hip.
Police are seeking help to identify three suspects in the attack, which took place during Pride month, and have involved the dedicated Hate Crime Unit to support the investigation.
“The Toronto Police Service understands that incidents of this nature cause concern in LGBTQ2S+ communities. We want to assure everyone that our investigators are working hard to determine if this was a hate crime and identify the suspects involved,” the Toronto Police Service said in a statement.
“Any type of hate crime will not be tolerated. Our dedicated LGBTQ2S+ Liaison Officer has also been made aware and has been actively engaging with the community.”
News of the attack began to make the rounds on social media late Tuesday, with members of the community alleging that one of the suspects is a current member of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. 3DownNation is not naming the player as his involvement has not been independently verified and charges have yet to be filed against anyone involved.
The Redblacks issued the following statement on the situation Wednesday morning:
“The Ottawa Redblacks are aware of allegations made on social media involving a player in the organization. The team is currently investigating.”
The CFL issued an official statement late Wednesday.
“The CFL is aware of violence against a LGBTQ2S+ community member, and the allegation that has been made against Chris Larsen, an Ottawa Redblacks player. The Redblacks, who have a strong track record of opposing violence and advocating for inclusion, have said they are suspending Larsen pending further information as a result of the investigation. We too take this allegation very seriously and look forward to the outcome.
In the meantime, we want to reaffirm our values: We condemn homophobia, violence and hate. We support inclusivity and diversity. We are partners with You Can Play, the non profit organization committed to advancing inclusion in sport, which has conducted training for our football operations and our office staff in recent years. More needs to be done and we will continue to stand with the LGBTQ2S+ community.”
The accusations stem from a now-deleted Instagram post by individuals close to the victim, but gained traction after being shared on Twitter by prominent Black Lives Matter organizer Sandy Hudson. Other social media personalities have since shared the allegations and demanded action from the CFL, including Priyanka, winner of Canada’s Drag Race.
“Hey CFL, change your Twitter profile photo if you’re gonna let one of your players beat up someone from our community,” the popular Drag performer tweeted to her nearly 133,000 followers, referencing the leagues rainbow logo in honour of Pride.
“My heart breaks. The hate never ends.”
The CFL has a recent history of dealing with issues of homophobia surrounding Pride Month. Last year, Edmonton returner Christion Jones was released by the team after tweeting a homophobic statement on Global Pride Day. The league and team responded swiftly in that instance, but will likely wait to confirm the criminal accusations in this case before proceeding.
Police are asking anyone who witnessed the assault or has video of the incident to forward it to Detective Constable Lauren Hassard 9854 at 52 Division by emailing [email protected]
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-5200, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, online on our Facebook Leave a Tip page, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).