Asper abused privilege

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

It's interesting that, in all the feedback we've received over the David Asper incident -- and we've received plenty -- there are some Winnipeg Blue Bomber supporters who seem to have missed the point.

Those readers argue that Asper, a member of the team's board of directors at the time, was perfectly justified in confronting players and coaches, and demanding explanations, following last Saturday's loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

He was only expressing every fan's anger, they say. Good for him for not remaining silent, for trying to turn the team around.

And I'd agree with you -- if he'd done it properly.

Remember, Asper helps run a family business, CanWest Global Communications, that owns TV and radio stations and newspapers across the country. He has no experience running, or coaching, a football team.

In other words, as far as football is concerned, he's like you: a fan. One who probably wouldn't know a two-deep zone if it hit him over the head. Which is fine. Neither would I.

As a board member, though, he had access the average fan will never have. And he abused that access.

Allowed to stand on the sidelines during games, Asper yelled at head coach Jim Daley during the second half, then continued his tirade after the game.

Allowed to get closer to players than any fan ever will, he abused that privilege by getting into Lamar McGriggs' face as the Bomber linebacker walked off the field.

Allowed to go into the locker-room after games, he abused that privilege by continuing to question Daley in front of his players.

Funny thing is, the most important access Asper had, the most privileged of his roles as a board member, is the one he didn't use -- let alone abuse.

It's at board meetings where long-term, big-picture decisions are made, decisions like whether or not to fire a coach, mid-season. Whether or not to hire a new general manager. Or add a talent scout. Or increase the budget for signing players.

That's where Asper should have taken his concerns.

Even club president/CEO Lyle Bauer acknowledged that is the protocol.

"If a board member has concerns or questions about staff, management players or coaches, then that would be brought to the chairman of the board, and then ultimately to the CEO," Bauer said. "Like you do in a corporation. The board members have access to the chairman, at any time.

"That is the way we do try to conduct business."

That's the closest Bauer came to acknowledging Asper's conduct was unacceptable.

I believe he should have gone one step further. Not even acknowledging Asper's behaviour, it seems to me, only condones it.

What's to stop the next passionate director from barging into the locker-room to voice his displeasure with the coach?

Hell, let's let all 10 of 'em in there to have a go at Daley. I'll bet some, like former receiving great Joe Poplawski, might even have something to offer.

Of course, most, including Poplawski, are too classy to usurp the man in charge. They know better.

"Certainly you don't welcome that in future," Bauer said. "There are expectations of behaviour of staff, board and other members in respect to protocol. Professional expectations. We accept nothing less."

They got less on Saturday night.

And the man who gave it to them has paid a price, although nobody will say Asper's resignation had anything to do with his outburst.

Fine.

At least there's a lesson buried in here, somewhere: abuse your privileges, and you lose them.

Let's hope all future directors take it to heart.


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