CFL, CFLPA agree to ‘further define’ zero-tolerance policy toward racial discrimination following Garrett Marino incident

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Canadian Football League and its Players’ Association (CFLPA) have released a joint statement recommitting to a zero-tolerance policy toward racial discrimination in light of the suspension of Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive tackle Garrett Marino for racialized remarks made towards Ottawa quarterback Jeremiah Masoli last Friday.

The CFL and the CFLPA are jointly committed to a policy of zero tolerance of any form of racism or racial discrimination and signified their commitment in writing during the last round of collective bargaining.

We have agreed to strengthen our commitment with urgency by agreeing to further define and agree on all issues arising from that joint commitment so both the CFL and CFLPA — and through them the entire professional Canadian football community — will have clarity and certainty moving forward.

The second-year defensive tackle hit Jeremiah Masoli illegally in last week’s win over the Ottawa Redblacks and celebrated following his ejection from the game, flexing his arms and blowing kisses to the crowd. Ottawa receiver Nate Behar later alleged that Marino made racist remarks to Masoli throughout the game.

Masoli will miss the next ten to twelve weeks with injury, while Marino has been suspended for a total of four games: two for the hit on Masoli, one for an illegal hit on offensive tackle Dino Boyd, and one for making verbal comments about “Masoli’s heritage.”

In an interview from before the suspension was handed down, Rider’s head coach Craig Dickenson declared that Marino was not a racist, stating the defensive tackle’s fiancée and best friend are both Black. However, Marino acknowledged making “an insensitive and culturally stereotypical remark” as part of his official apology on Wednesday.

Dickenson later apologized for those comments on Twitter, calling them “racially insensitive and irrelevant.”

In his own written statement shared on social media, Masoli criticized the CFL for punishing Marino’s comments with “a slap on the wrist” and called into question the league’s commitment to its Diversity is Strength motto.

The league and its union are now attempting to get in front of the issue and create a framework for future incidents. The efforts will not affect the punishment for Marino, however, who has opted not to appeal his suspension.