Passing the hat is now part of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' playbook.
Four members of the local CFL club were called out onto the carpet by the league for their public comments about the officiating following the disappointing 44-40 loss to the Montreal Alouettes Friday night. Head coach Paul LaPolice was nailed for a $1,000 fine, while three players -- DE Phillip Hunt, C Obby Khan, DB Jovon Johnson -- were tagged undisclosed amounts for their public displeasure with the zebras.
Those Bombers might have some help paying those monetary slaps on the wrist, though. Not only have teammates chipped in to offset the costs, but more than a few Blue and Gold supporters have contacted the Free Press to lend their support, wondering if they can help lessen the financial blow.
"The last couple days we've talked about looking in the mirror at ourselves -- we are," LaPolice said at the Bomber offices Wednesday. "That's awesome by the fans... but I would say just put those funds to your (favourite) charity."
As a refresher, let's go back to Friday's contest.
The Bombers (and the fans) disagreed with a number of calls made by head referee Murray Clarke and his crew, including an illegal contact call on Bombers DB Clint Kent and a video replay ruling that determined Alouettes receiver Jamel Richardson did not catch and have possession of the ball when he fumbled on the game-winning drive. Winnipeg recovered the loose ball on the non-play.
Two plays later, Montreal converted a 3rd-and-4 into a 48-yard touchdown reception.
Afterwards, Bomber players were hot and bothered:
Said Hunt: "For these referees to come out here and showcase poor judgmental skills is beyond me. What they have against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, or if they're getting paid by the Alouettes... I think the referees need to have a (meeting) with the CFL and they need to talk something over, because this is sad."
Offered Khan: "What's the point of working if they (the officials) are just going to hand the game to Montreal? Without a doubt I feel the refs did.
"It's a professional league, we're professional players... and it doesn't seem like that (professionalism) is all around." You expect the calls to be equal. Without seeing the film, I don't feel like they were."
Khan was a little more reserved when commenting on his own comments Wednesday.
"It's been a couple days now, so obviously things have cooled off," he said. "I didn't mean what I said. It was in the heat of the moment, we just played a game with a lot of emotion, and we put a lot of time and effort into that game. Whatever you do in life, whether it's football or work -- you put that much effort in and things don't go your way, you're going to be upset.
"Ten minutes after the game and the media is in my face -- I said some things I regret."
LaPolice was dinged for his stating that "mistakes were made" and questioning the "inconsistencies" within the CFL officiating group on a post game radio segment. That's a no-no, as players and coaches were informed by the league earlier in the year that any use of those terms would be considered public criticism and subject to discipline.
That's fine, said LaPolice. He talked to the CFL director of officials Tom Higgins, ironed out the creases with regards to the rulings on the field, and took full responsibility for his conduct Wednesday. If anything, the coach was more annoyed that league ruling dragged so long into the week -- a pivotal stretch for the Bombers as they ready themselves for a key game with the B.C. Lions at Empire Stadium Saturday. With just six games left on the schedule, Winnipeg (3-9) needs a victory against B.C. (4-8) to climb back into the race for the final playoff spot.
"I really haven't thought too much about (the officials) since Sunday," LaPolice added. "We're just moving on to go play football."