CFL mum on racial slur

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

"Get off the field, I don't understand ebonics."

Apparently, that is what an unnamed Canadian Football League official said to a Calgary Stampeders player on Friday night.

Nik Lewis didn't catch the name or the number of the official he is blowing the whistle on, or if he did he's not sharing that information publicly.

He knows the face, he said. He knows what he heard. He is definite about that. A police lineup isn't necessary for purposes of identification.

The game against the B.C. Lions ended Friday with screaming and hysteria, with coach Matt Dunigan running after one official and with Calgary players shouting at others. The struggling Stampeders, with four wins and 12 losses, had executed a trick play to stunning perfection only to be denied their fifth victory by officiating caught unaware.

After the game, Nik Lewis of Mineral Wells, Tex., and Southern Arkansas University was one of those still on the field, still shouting, still arguing, one of those trying to comprehend why the best moment of their season had been stolen from the Stamps, when he was shocked by the words he heard.

A football player knocked ajar by the verbal threat from an on-field official.

"That's racial and that's crap," an upset Dunigan said. "I'm surprised Nik didn't go after him."

This is the Canadian Football League where tolerance has been a way of life almost forever. This is the CFL where three of the league's nine head coaches are considered minorities in other places, where seven of nine starting quarterbacks are considered minorities in other places, where there always has been opportunity and the closest thing to stereotyping happens to be that an American coach views Canadian talent.

NOT HERE

This is the CFL and this is unacceptable.

Now here is the league, in something of a renaissance season in southern Ontario, with new ownership in Hamilton and Toronto, with a stadium about to be built, with no one wondering which franchise is about to collapse, with a genuine problem of both sport and decorum.

A problem that happened on Friday. Today is Tuesday. On this one, and in so many ways, the CFL has dropped the ball.

Commissioner Tom Wright didn't return a telephone message yesterday regarding the situation.

Director of officiating George Black didn't return the telephone message left for him.

A league spokesperson, asked on voice-mail if anyone would be commenting on either of the situations involving officials, returned a call late in the day to inform that "at this point, we don't have a status update."

The spokesperson didn't know if the league would be dealing with the apparent racial slur in any way.

This is a league still figuring it out as it goes along.

Ron Rooke, the president of the Stampeders, flew to Toronto yesterday to meet with Wright and officially protest the blown call. The protest was not upheld. The truth is, by Monday, everyone in Canada had seen the play and there was little that could be said about the mistake.

Changing the result wouldn't alter the standings in any way, only to provide the Stampeders with one more win and the B.C. Lions with one more loss.

An officiating staff can miss a call. Regrettably, that can happen.

What can't happen, if it did happen, was an official speaking out of turn. That's a disgrace that should end with dismissal.


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