The commissioner of the Canadian Football League is ready to tackle the need for improved security at stadiums.
Tom Wright said yesterday that the incident involving the Argos' Bashir Levingston, who threw his helmet into the crowd following Toronto's Labour Day game in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats, indicates a need to improve security for players, fans, officials, coaches and the media.
"We take the security issue very seriously," Wright said yesterday in an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun. "Safety is a shared responsibility between the teams, the league, the stadium officials and the players and frankly the fans as well. Ultimately we as a league want to make sure security is appropriately enforced."
While Levingston admitted his wrongdoing for throwing his helmet into the crowd after a fan spat on him, he said the league has to take responsibility for improving security, particularly during the annual Labour Day game when emotions seem to escalate. The Argos are planning to bring a protective covering to place over the entrance to their locker room for future games in Hamilton.
"The security and access points are significantly different across the league," Wright said. "For the Labour games there is already increased security and it's put in the areas that I think are appropriate. Obviously in this case something happened that allowed a fan to interact with one of our players in an inappropriate manner and, frankly, the reverse happened as well. We've got to make sure that we do our best to minimize any chance of that happening again."
Wright said the the CFL will look at its stadium security policies, while also viewing security used by other leagues. The information will be analyzed by the CFL's competition committee, and Wright said there's a possibility protective coverings might be put in place in stadiums where stands hang above the entrance to locker rooms.
"Sometimes when certain events occur you may have to look at alternatives," Wright said. "That's why we might consider (awnings). We're going to work with all of our stadiums. It might be an issue that's not just prevalent in Hamilton. It might show up in other stadiums."
Wright, who is nearing the end of his third full term, could not recall a previous incident in which a player threw a helmet at a spectator, and he viewed it as a matter of safety, security and the integrity of the league.
"Our fans need to feel confident that they can come to any of our facilities and know that they can enjoy the game," he said. "I would also suggest that fans have to act responsibly as well. It's a shared responsibility and clearly the fan that ultimately provoked the player acted inappropriately, but two wrongs don't make a right. That's the issue."
Wright also addressed why it took some two weeks from the time Levingston threw his helmet to the time the league served him with the notice of a suspension. There has been some criticism that the league took too long, whereas other leagues, in particular the National Football League, issue immediate penalties when it comes to player conduct.
Wright said this particular issue, which was not available on film, had to go through a review process beginning with a report of the incident, followed by a notification to Levingston asking him for an explanation. Levingston, by the way, claims he was not told anything by the league before he was served with the suspension. Wright said various security officials at Ivor Wynne Stadium were contacted, in addition to both teams.
"Is it as fast as I'd like to see it happen? The truth of the matter is no," he said. "I'd like to see these (reviews) happen more quickly because I think it's appropriate we try to respond as quickly as possible.