Argos stand up for Toronto

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Controlling gun violence in our city should be left up to the cops and the politicians, so why are the Toronto Argonauts making it their business?

Because they care enough to be involved in the cause, which is the hot-button issue facing our city.

No longer can we call our city Toronto the Good, because for all of its charm, cleanliness and quality of life compared to other major metropolises, it no longer is safe.

That disappeared with the increasing stories of gun-related crimes that have resulted in the deaths or serious injuries of some innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; their lives ended or ruined by gangs whose moral compasses are stuck on zero.

BOUNCED BACK

And here come the Argos, an organization which was on its last legs only three years ago, operating on nothing more than goodwill and a head coach, Pinball Clemons, who only a year before in his role as president talked about the team moving forward with an "ethos of competence."

Only a year later, ethos became pathos and competence turned to incompetence, as the pitiful team fell into financial disrepair, claimed by the Canadian Football League after the individual who owned the team, the New York-based Sherwood Schwarz, stopped paying his bills.

Two Toronto-based businessmen, David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski, made it their civic duty to buy the team.

Cynamon and Sokolowski, both bright, young and eminently successful, believed they could turn around the moribund franchise. They hired an individual, Keith Pelley, an effervescent pepperpot with a passion for football, to run the club. He had seemingly left a secure job as president of TSN to take the wheel of the Good Ship Argonaut, which looked more like the Titanic.

But through patience and careful handling, the Argos have been turned around -- some would say miraculously.

But it hasn't been enough for these caretakers to merely show their "ethos of competence" in how they manage the product on the field. Rather, it's just as important to make a statement about how a sports team that is not owned or managed by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment or Rogers Communications Ltd. can make a difference in the way Torontonians think about an issue as serious as guns and violence.

Think about it ... football is a game of controlled violence, and here is a team preaching against violence.

The Argos began their Stop The Violence, We Are Toronto campaign last August and it gradually has moved forward with the help of the police, politicians, religious officials, youth groups and businesses all working together for the common good.

The Argos announced yesterday they were giving $100,000 in grants to four community-based organizations committed to ending gun and gang violence in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Argos hope to raise another $500,000 by the end of the year with the help of corporate support and initiatives such as a walk-a-thon in May or June. The team is selling merchandise with the Stop The Violence, We Are Toronto message.

Inasmuch as the Argos are trying to build up their brand, they clearly are not prostituting the public in the name of a charity.

A few years ago under a different ownership and management, the Argos tried to raise awareness for Parkinson's research by bringing in Muhammad Ali to appear at a football game. It was a noble idea, but the bridging of the team with the boxing icon clearly didn't mesh.

There is a definite symbiosis to this project. It is real and so are the people sending out the message.

Last year, the Argos made 300 appearances in the community.

They have become Toronto's team, certainly not in the popularity of the Leafs, Blue Jays or Raptors, but front-runners in civic responsibility and consciousness.


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