Monday Mailbag: Brendon LaBatte’s suspension, CFL media access

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The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

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We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.


Why was Brendon LaBatte suspended by the Riders? I thought he wasn’t going to play this year.


Thanks for the question, Christine.

Teams are only allowed to bring 100 players to training camp, all of whom must be on the active roster. Keeping LaBatte on the active roster would have cost Saskatchewan a roster spot for training camp, which would have been a waste considering he’s not going to play this year.

The suspended list has a dubious name but it’s used for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with illicit behaviour. LaBatte didn’t get suspended because he did something untoward — it’s just a way for the Riders to keep his rights without forfeiting an active roster spot.

The most common reasons that players are placed on the suspended list are not reporting to training camp, leaving the team or missing practice during the season without team approval.

It’s rare for players to be added to the suspended list during the season because teams also get a practice roster, a one-game injured list, and a six-game injured list. Even if a player gets in trouble during the season, teams will sometimes put them on the one-game injured list instead of suspending them to avoid scrutiny.

In the off-season there is only an active roster and a suspended list. Every player has to be on one of these two lists unless they have retired or been released. LaBatte hasn’t retired or been released, so the suspended list is the only other place for him to go.

I would expect each team to suspend a number of players — some of whom will eventually report and some of whom won’t — ahead of training camp to help maximize roster space.


Does football have a problem with access media?

I keep hearing how “great” the CFL game is and how it would be a shame to lose it — merging with the XFL — but, admittedly, the CFL has made some real blunders over the years (ie. adding four coaches’ challenges per game and coaches using them to fish for penalties).

Any business would have problems operating if it was continued to be run in this way. The CFL is not unique in this. So, leading back to my question, are CFL media types afraid of being critical of the league, thinking they might lose access?


Robert S.

Thanks for the question, Robert.

I’m not going to speak on behalf of all CFL media, but I do believe that losing access to teams is a concern for many people in the modern sports media landscape.

Player salaries have become so lucrative in some leagues that players have no incentive to speak to the media. A generation ago, getting featured in the newspaper could help players secure an off-season job or a small endorsement deal with a local company. Nowadays, working an off-season job would be unthinkable for a player in the NHL or NFL.

It’s also important to note how teams have started covering themselves by employing in-house media people. Coverage from independent publications — even when critical — used to serve as an important form of publicity for the product. It’s a lot less important to receive third-party coverage when teams can produce content themselves and push it out to millions of followers on social media.

I think it’s perfectly fair for teams to cover themselves provided they allow the same level of access to independent media. 3DownNation has always received strong support from the league office and eight of the league’s nine teams, though our access to the ninth team has recently improved.

As for criticism, I try to ensure that my criticism is always fair and professional. I’ve ruffled some feathers, but that’s bound to happen at times. People are emotional and feelings get hurt, even when criticism is warranted.

We’ve received criticism at 3DownNation in the past and made corresponding changes to our process, layout, and content. If we criticize others, we need to be open to criticism ourselves — it’s only fair and makes us all better.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.