David Cynamon, Howard Sokolowski and David Braley, in the eyes of the Canadian Football League, didn't conspire to do anything bad.
But CFL commissioner Mark Cohon wants changes to the league's constitution after it became public knowledge that Braley, the owner of the B.C. Lions, made a loan to Cynamon and Sokolowski, the co-owners of the Argonauts, so the pair could cover the $2-million franchise fee when they bought the Argos out of bankruptcy in 2003.
In turn, Braley reportedly pocketed money from Grey Cup profits when the CFL championship was in Toronto in 2007. It was reported that Braley loaned $1-million to Cynamon and Sokolowski, and has helped cover the Argos' annual operating losses.
"What I am focused on is moving forward and making sure our constitution is changed so if there are any financial transactions there is transparency not only for us but for our fans," Cohon said.
"What happened did not contravene our constitution or any of our bylaws. These were guys who came in and actually saved one of our more storied franchises in our biggest city."
In a statement released by the league yesterday, Cynamon, Sokolowski and Braley acknowledged that Braley offered the two "financial assistance." All three stressed that at no time was Braley an owner of the Argos, and Cohon was satisfied nothing was in the wrong after speaking to them yesterday.
"We have to be clear that there was no operational change," Cohon, who plans to speak to the league's executive committee today, said. "There is no indication that anything like that happened. Clearly the only operational control has been by Howard and David (Cynamon), which is important."
The transactions didn't ruffle many feathers across the league, but other teams said they need to be aware of what's going on when they are gathered around the board of governors table.
"I've seen Toronto and B.C. go at it many times in the board room over issues," Calgary Stampeders managing partner Ted Hellard told Sun Media. "There's nothing that would ever indicate anything (that the Argos and Lions were in cahoots).
"Moving forward, I think this is knowledge I think would be best-suited if we were all informed of it. But as far as the intent and what they were trying to do, we have absolutely no issue with that."
Said Winnipeg Blue Bombers president Lyle Bauer, who noted that teams have loaned money to each other in the CFL at other times: "That's the nature of the beast. In some ways, it's no different than that, other than the lack of disclosure. That would be the preferred route."
It's clear the optics would have been much better had Cynamon and Sokolowski told the league of the transactions, which would have saved Cohon the embarrassment of the story becoming public before he knew about it. At the time of the original loan, Tom Wright was the CFL commissioner.
Other than in a release, Cynamon and Sokolowski did not comment on the issue, and did not address the idea that Braley has helped cover Toronto's annual operating losses. Braley told the Vancouver Sun that he had made loans "five or six times before," and that "sometimes people knew about it, sometimes they didn't."
Was Cohon angry about the way in which the story came out?
"I'm not mad," Cohon said. "What I want to address is something like this is clear for the governors in the future."