Marino gets no mercy

CFL making it difficult for Rider to appeal suspension for dirty hit

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Despite a lighter slate, with three games instead of the usual four, Week 5 in the CFL packed a heavy punch.

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Despite a lighter slate, with three games instead of the usual four, Week 5 in the CFL packed a heavy punch.

The Blue Bombers reminded the rest of the league that the Grey Cup goes through Winnipeg, improving to a perfect 5-0 with a convincing 43-22 win over the B.C. Lions.

The Calgary Stampeders (4-0) also remain undefeated, delivering a beatdown, 49-6, to the Edmonton Elks (1-4) in the rematch of the Battle of Alberta. Finally, an impressive victory for the Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-1) over the Ottawa Redblacks (0-4), 28-13, was marred by a disgusting play and ensuing antics by Roughriders defensive lineman Garrett Marino.

Buckle up. We’re going to spend a lot of time talking about Marino and the Roughriders in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES CFL commissioner, Randy Ambrosie. The CFL called Marino's suspension the "most severe discipline for in-game behaviour in league history."

1) Quick recap: late in Friday’s game, with under five minutes remaining, Marino delivered a low and dangerous hit on Redblacks QB Jeremiah Masoli that was clearly intended to injure. That became apparent immediately after the tackle, as Marino got up, dished out a racially insensitive comment to Masoli, who is of Polynesian descent, and then continued to celebrate — flexing his arms, blowing kisses to the crowd and holding his helmet above his head, among other gross actions — after he was ejected from the game. Marino was handed a four-game suspension, including two games for the hit and a game each for the racial comment and another illegal hit earlier in the game. Meanwhile, Masoli had surgery on his leg and is expected to miss 10-12 weeks.

2) The CFL broke the suspension down this way in order to make it difficult for Marino to appeal. That appears to have worked, as Marino won’t argue the penalty, something players around the league had also publicly hoped for.

3) The CFL called the suspension the “most severe discipline for in-game behaviour in league history.” That’s not a badge of honour; the CFL is notoriously weak is dishing out discipline and when was the last time a player was so blatantly obvious in trying to hurt someone, then made fun of said player’s heritage and then cheered while he writhed in pain on the field?

Roughriders defensive lineman Garrett Marino.

4) As bad as the hit and ensuing antics were, the response from the Roughriders is almost worse. Marino didn’t issue an apology until Wednesday, five days after the game, in what was a carefully crafted statement clearly written by the club’s PR team. What’s more, in a rare move, the Roughriders issued their own apology to Masoli and pledged to donate to the Redblacks mentorship program for at-risk youth in his name, also five days after the fact.

5) While some right things were said – including Marino acknowledging his actions, accepting the full punishment, and issuing an apology – it also fell short in other ways. Marino, who turns 28 next month, called his racially insensitive comment a “misunderstanding,” noting he only “now understands their consequences.” According to sources, Marino’s comments included calling Masoli a “fake Polynesian.”

6) Oh, and to cap off his apology, Marino claims he won’t be commenting on this matter again. Excuse me? Again? This barely constitutes a first time. If we are truly to believe Marino is sorry, he should have to face questions about what happened and provide genuine answers. Only the Roughriders would be arrogant enough to believe they can shield him from real accountability.

7) The apology came after Masoli took to Twitter late Tuesday to share his feelings about the incident. He claimed, despite the Roughriders saying otherwise, that he hadn’t received any private apology from anyone in Saskatchewan. The Redblacks QB shared how hurt he was about the racial insults and also called into question Marino’s history of abuse in the CFL, which includes two fines, two ejections and a now a four-game suspension despite having just a 12-game CFL career.

THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES/John Woods Ottawa Redblacks’ quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

8) I’m going to start by saying I believe Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson is a good person. I’d go as far as to suggest you might not find a more thoughtful bench boss in the CFL. But that only makes his handling of this situation even more perplexing.

9) Dickenson said after the game that Marino’s actions were disappointing and tainted the win, to the point he didn’t dish out any game balls. Meanwhile, Redblacks receiver Nate Behar was going off post-game, talking about how Marino had confronted Redblacks players at The Keg the night before to deliver some questionable trash talk and was saying racially insensitive comments during player pileups.

10) Earlier, on Monday, while speaking to Regina radio station 620 CKRM, Dickenson jumped to Marino’s defence. Dickenson took particular issue with accusations that Marino was acting racist. His fierce defiance against such claims were based on Dickenson believing there was no evidence, that it was an effort by people to make it “easier to hate on the guy” and the fact his fiancée and best friend were African American. Dickenson then apologized on Twitter for his comments about having a Black partner and friend, calling them “racially insensitive and irrelevant.” But he insisted Marino was being “unfairly characterized and punished for his actions” and that he didn’t mean to injure Masoli.

11) Dickenson then told the media, following news of the four-game suspension, that the team will not be cutting Marino. He also tripled-down on the progress Marino has made from last season to this one, adding the one-game suspension for the racial insults was “a little bit of a reach.” He also said the team would support Marino if he wished to appeal that suspension.

12) Cutting Marino wouldn’t be turning their backs on him, as Dickenson said, it would be sending a clear message that playing pro football is a privilege and not a right. Especially for a player who appears to be universally disliked across the league, including by some of his own teammates, many of which have spoken out about Marino in recent days. But I guess five sacks in 12 games is worth what will be an ongoing headache.

13) Last note on this issue: where is Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds? Or vice-president of Football operations and GM Jeremy O’Day? The silence is deafening.

The Canadian Press Files Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson.

14) With Masoli out for the foreseeable future, the Redblacks swung a trade with the Elks for Nick Arbuckle. As you might recall, Arbuckle signed with Ottawa in 2020 but didn’t play a game for the club because of the cancelled season and then was released in 2021 when they couldn’t renegotiate his contract. Coach Paul LaPolice also said he wanted a QB he was more familiar with, opting to sign Matt Nichols instead. Apparently, it’s not awkward.

15) Speaking of Nichols, after a disappointing season in 2021 he’s decided to officially retire. There’s a bit of buzz that he might retire as a Bomber but no confirmation of that just yet.

16) With Tre Ford injured for a few weeks, the Elks turn to Taylor Cornelius once again. But could change be on the horizon? In a hilarious twist of fate, Elks president Victor Cui, in a now deleted tweet of him and Montreal owner Gary Stern arm wrestling in Edmonton, exposed a to-do list that allegedly belongs to Stern that had “Vernon Adams trade” on it. Adams lost his job to Trevor Harris this year and given Chris Jones love for mobile QBs, it would make sense.

17) Note to the CFL: don’t insult Winnipeg’s offence. Former Bomber Marcus Sayles learned that the hard way after calling them “vanilla.”

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Edmonton Elks quarterback Nick Arbuckle throws an interception during the first half of CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, on Saturday, June 11, 2022. The Ottawa Redblacks acquired the quarterback from the Edmonton Elks on Monday in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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