Former Redblacks coach Charles Eger apologizes for ‘failing’ francophone players

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks.

Days after Martin Comtois of Le Droit reported that he had been asked to leave the team for insensitive comments made towards French-Canadian players, former Redblacks running backs coach Charles Eger is apologizing for his behaviour.

The following statement, made through his agent Dennis Cordell, explains the circumstances of Eger’s departure.

“It was brought to my attention that eight weeks ago I made remarks during a film session and on the practice field that offended the French speaking players in my position group. I was unaware that my words were offensive and I apologize for the harm I caused.

During the film sessions I allowed our players to speak to each other about our football schemes. Sometimes the volume of these individual discussions became a distraction and prevented me from teaching the necessary material for all of us to do our jobs. When this happened, I typically let the players know they were being a distraction to the group and I would ask them to stop talking. This situation arose several times throughout the season. At the end of this particular session eight weeks ago, I explained to the French speaking players that I felt heckled when they talked over me but did not have questions or comments to make to me or the group. I told them they reminded me of “The Muppet Show” characters Statler and Waldorf because they never let the show go on uninterrupted. I did not have an issue with them speaking French but did have an issue with them speaking over me when I was teaching and not contributing to the group discussion. At the time, I was unaware of the history of the suppression of French speaking males and I can now see how my words had a negative impact on them emotionally.

After practice that same day we were in our position group meeting when a player asked a question that one of the French speaking players did not hear. When the French speaking player asked ‘What did he say?’ I replied ‘blah, blah, blah, now you know how I feel.’ This comment was wrong and hurtful and I am sorry I reacted that way.

Since joining the Redblacks organization I made an effort to treat everyone on the team with respect. I did not use abusive language and tried to use positive reinforcement rather than fear and intimidation to motivate my players. I am sorry I failed these two men. I apologized to them and to the team in person before I left and now offer my apologies to the entire French speaking community.”

Eger was not on the sidelines during Ottawa’s loss to the Toronto Argonauts this past week and head coach Paul LaPolice confirmed that Eger was asked to not be with the team for their final regular season games.

LaPolice told Comtois that Eger had “shown insensitivity” to the team’s French-speaking players and removing him from the clubhouse was the “right decision.” The head coach would not confirm whether Eger has been suspended or fired, though he said that Eger’s contract would not be renewed.

LaPolice also said that he addressed the team’s players to apologize for the incident and assure them that the organization values diversity and inclusion. Ottawa currently has eleven French-speaking players on its roster.

As of 2016, 39.0 percent of Ottawa’s population spoke French, 37.6 percent of whom are bilingual.

Eger has coached extensively at the collegiate level with stints at Clarion University, Seton Hill University, Widener University, and Central Connecticut State. This was his first season with the Redblacks after previously serving as a guest coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, St. Louis Rams, and Pittsburgh Steelers.