THE objectionable conduct penalty that was called on Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Brandon Stewart in the first quarter of a 29-10 Bombers loss to the Toronto Argonauts at Canad Inns Stadium Saturday night was for his alleged use of the "n-word," Bombers head coach Tim Burke revealed on Sunday.
Burke said use of the racial epithet is supposed to be an automatic penalty in the CFL, but Burke suggested it's hurled about during a game a lot more than it is called, including Saturday night. "I'm sure it's not the only time during the game that people on the field used that word. But our guy happened to be standing right next to the ref," said Burke.
Stewart was flagged after he came rushing over to fellow defensive back Alex Suber to celebrate Suber's knockdown of a Jarious Jackson pass that was intended for Argos WR Dontrelle Inman in the Bombers end zone.
All three men are African-Americans and it is not uncommon for black players in the CFL to use the term -- even on their Twitter accounts -- to refer to one another playfully. On Twitter, the word is usually spelled in such cases with an '-a' or '-ah' suffix, instead of '-er.'
"It can be seen as a cultural thing," said Burke. "And it's hard to change guys' habits who've been speaking that way for 25 years."
Stewart told reporters Saturday night simply that he was penalized for "swearing."
Burke says players are aware usage of the word is a penalty and are told simply not to use it.
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WITH the status of Bombers QB Buck Pierce once again in doubt beause of a head injury suffered Saturday night, Burke said his plan would be to start Joey Elliott for Winnipeg's next game, Oct. 8 in Montreal against the Alouettes, if Pierce cannot go.
Elliott has failed to distinguish himself as a bonafide CFL quarterback, with a 406-yard passing outing against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats standing as a lone exception to what has otherwise been poor play and a complete lack of touchdown production.
And the same was true again Saturday night, when Elliott failed to produce a major and threw three interceptions in relief of Pierce.
Burke said Elliott should have got the Bombers in the end zone "at least one or two more times" against Toronto, but feels that generally Elliott has showed some progress. "I think he was much more patient with his reads. He wasn't trying to dump the ball as quickly as he had in the past. He's trying to let plays develop."
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FORMER Bombers great Milt Stegall has gotten into a bit of Twitter war with Argos defensive end Ricky Foley over the past week.
Stegall, who's now a TSN analyst, has been critical this season of the Argos play generally -- and that of Foley in particular. The latest back-and-forth came Saturday when Stegall used Twitter to call out what he feels is Foley's poor sack and tackle production this season.
Foley promptly tied into Stegall for his failure to win a Grey Cup during a 14-year career in Winnipeg.
"Stop lying and get a clue or get off TSN as an lying analyst...," tweeted Foley, who won a Grey Cup with B.C. in 2006. "Oh, and I just did some statistical calculations...you're still on pace for zero championships."