Trivel Pinto’s charge reveals double standard in CFL’s handling of violence against women

Photos courtesy: Scott Grant & UBC Athletics. Photo edit: 3DownNation.

The CFL is applying a double standard in the way in which it handles violence against women.

Calgary Stampeders’ receiver Trivel Pinto was arrested on Saturday along with two former UBC teammates for sexual assault. The charges came following an incident on Nov. 5, 2018 when a woman reported that she had been sexually assaulted by three men at a residence in Vancouver.

“The Calgary Stampeders are aware of the situation involving Trivel Pinto and are currently gathering additional information,” the organization said in a statement. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, the team does not have further comment.”

Pinto was a second-round pick in the 2020 CFL Draft who has yet to play his first professional game due to the cancellation of last season. He signed with the Stamps in January 2021 and remains under contract with the team.

The CFL implemented a domestic violence policy in August 2015 that applies to all employees of the league and its member clubs. The policy does not call for the immediate termination or suspension of an employee who is charged with a violent crime.

Instead, the policy states that suspensions and/or loss of income “will only be an option if or when allegations are substantiated and the safety of a victim and/or community members has been compromised.”

This seems fair. The legal system presumes that those facing charges are innocent until proven guilty, which is reflected in the CFL’s policy. The league also makes it clear that they are “not criminal investigators, fact finders, judges or juries.” Their job is to cooperate with experts and officials, not investigate the cases themselves.

One line in the domestic violence policy — albeit a vague one — led me to believe that Pinto may face consequences for being arrested.

“When any CFL workplace, including a CFL football club or one of its corporate offices, receives a report of violence against women involving a CFL employee, we will act,” reads the policy.

The only “act” that the Calgary Stampeders have taken in response to Pinto’s charge is issuing its short statement. The league has not commented on the matter, which contradicts what happened three years ago under similar circumstances.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders released Jerome Messam in July 2018 when he was charged with voyeurism. The two-time CFL all-star was the team’s starting running back at the time and was popular among fans. His departure hurt the team, but the decision to part ways with him was made swiftly.

The CFL released a statement at the time in support of Saskatchewan’s decision to release Messam. They also took things a step further with the announcement that Randy Ambrosie had “informed all member clubs that the league will not register a contract for Messam should any team attempt to sign him.”

Why is Pinto allowed to remain under contract while Messam was barred from the CFL for a similar charge? This is the question I posed to the CFL this week.

“At this stage of the process, we are not prepared to discuss any details of this case,” a spokesperson replied.

The CFL appears to have followed its domestic violence policy in Pinto’s case, provided one accepts Calgary’s statement as an “act.” It remains unclear, however, why Messam was treated so differently under a policy that has not changed since it was implemented in 2015.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.