All day the Canadian Football League was locked in radio silence, for good reason. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats had hired Art Briles, the disgraced former coach at Baylor University who was fired after dozens of allegations of rape, harassment, stalking and assault by his players surfaced despite his best efforts. He had become radioactive in American football; Hamilton, exhibiting truly heroic tone-deaf idiocy, decided he would be welcome here.
It was a sudden, incredible crisis. Monday night the Ticats also ran their first of two Huddles & Heels women’s football clinics, presented by Barry’s Jewellers. They’ve done it for a few years now: female fans get to drink wine, learn about football, run drills on the field. By mid-afternoon, Barry’s Jewellers had already reacted to the Briles hiring with strong disapproval, and announced a plan to donate an undisclosed portion of their sales for the next two months to the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton. Now here’s how you throw a spiral, ladies!
The CFL wasn’t sure it could block a coaching appointment; the league can and has refused to register player contracts, but two sources familiar with the constitution told the Star the only way commissioner Randy Ambrosie could block the hire would be if he decided the move brought he league into disrepute. And even then, the CFL wasn’t sure it would hold weight.
So they went with old-fashioned diplomacy instead, arguing and leaning and persuading into the evening, and saved the team from themselves. The statement announcing Briles wasn’t coming arrived at 9:23 p.m.
It wasn’t that Hamilton’s front office couldn’t hire Briles. It was that they shouldn’t. Baylor University didn’t fire him until it was clear that his players had committed dozens and perhaps hundreds of crimes on his watch, up to and including rape. He, in turn, didn’t drop his libel and slander lawsuit threats until it was revealed that he knew about many of the allegations and preferred to keep them quiet. Ticats president Scott Mitchell, in an interview that couldn’t have been more of a train wreck if it had done a nosedive off a trestle bridge, said that Briles had been exonerated by the university. The university that fired Briles and contradicted his version of events, over and over? That one?
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