‘He is who we thought he was’: Redblacks’ Nate Behar stands by criticism of Riders’ Garrett Marino following return from suspension

Photo courtesy: CFL

Nearly two months after his starting quarterback was injured by an illegal hit, Ottawa Redblacks’ receiver Nate Behar has no regrets regarding a series of impassioned post-game rants he made about Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive tackle Garrett Marino.

“At the time, it didn’t really seem like there was much of an option to not say the things that were on my mind,” Behar said earlier this week at a live recording of the Ottawa Redblacks Radio Show.

After Marino was ejected for a late hit to the knees of Ottawa signal-caller Jeremiah Masoli late in the fourth quarter of the Week 5 clash between the two teams, Behar went off on the defender while speaking to several media outlets.

The Canadian receiver took aim at CFL officials for allowing Marino’s dirty play throughout the game to go unpunished, at the Riders’ organization for allowing his behaviour, and at fans for egging the defender on as he celebrated while being escorted off the field after the hit. Behar also lambasted Marino for his behaviour leading up to the contest and blew the whistle on what he described as “racist bullsh*t” directed at Masoli by the second-year Rider.

The statements ran afoul of the CFL’s policy for players addressing the media but Behar made them after careful consideration with Redblacks communications manager Chris Hofley, who turned to the articulate pass-catcher in a time of crisis.

“[Hofley] came down in the locker room and I was like, ‘Do you know how much a fine is for criticizing officials, swearing, cussing, XYZ?’ We did some mental math and I figured, hey, I’ve been hitting my playtime bonuses in my contract so that money might as well go somewhere,” Behar recalled.

“I just said as long as you’re okay with me speaking candidly, I’ll talk to whoever you need me to talk to. And then a couple of guys in the locker room, were like, ‘Hey, if there’s a fine that comes down for you saying anything, we got you.'”

It was never revealed whether Behar faced any league discipline for his comments, but Marino was issued a ground-breaking four-game suspension — the longest in CFL history for an on-field incident. That punishment included a one-game ban specifically attributed to comments made in regards to “Masoli’s heritage.”

That decision was criticized for not being harsh enough, but Behar hopes he helped ensure Marino’s actions aren’t soon forgotten.

“I went out there and I don’t usually bite my tongue very well, so it just sort of started and I let it loose. I mean, we all know it was BS and looking back at it, I’m happy I said something,” he said.

“It’s pretty awesome how much positive support has rallied behind Jeremiah in the wake of it. Hopefully, it’s going to make our league a better place for not just quarterbacks but for everybody, because a talent like he is and people like him deserve to be playing every single weekend.”

Masoli is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on his injured knee. Marino did not speak to the media about the incident until he had finished serving his suspension, expressing regret for his behaviour but acknowledging he had not yet personally apologized to Masoli.

With the controversial defensive lineman now back on the field and cashing a paycheque, Behar admits it has been difficult for the Redblacks to watch him play while missing their locker room leader.

“I think we had enough time to kind of prep for it; it’s just one of those things. Is it hard? I mean, there’s much harder things day in and day out. But is it frustrating? I think for sure,” he acknowledged. “Does it reek of some ethereal injustice? Somewhat, for sure. But we knew what the ruling was so that’s what it is. What’s the saying? He is who we thought he was. I think we’ve seen that over the last few weeks if you’ve been following the news.”

Marino has already come under fire since returning, earning a fine for unnecessarily rough play against B.C. Lions’ centre Peter Godber in his first game back and being accused of attempting a headshot on receiver Lucky Whitehead.

That likely won’t be the last time Marino earns negative headlines in his career but he will not be able to do any more damage to Behar’s Redblacks this season, as the two teams do not play each other a second time.