When the Ottawa REDBLACKS signed star CFL quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, they had high hopes of a major turnaround. But the league schedule maker certainly did them no favours, handing them an extremely difficult start. Their first four games were against Western clubs that are currently a combined 13-1 this season.
Even though the REDBLACKS fell to 0-4 last week in Saskatchewan, there was still hope in the form of the upcoming schedule. The next three weeks would finally feature games in the East, which has a collective record of 2-15. And Ottawa is just two points out of first place.
But something happened in Regina, late in the game, that was discouraging on many levels. Masoli was carried off the field, injured by a late, low, dirty hit by Saskatchewan’s Garrett Marino. As if to prove he intended to injure Masolil, Marino allegedly yelled racial slurs at the fallen quarterback, then danced to the sideline, blowing kisses, and celebrating his accomplishment.
And it wasn’t the first time Marino has intentionally gone after Masoli with a low hit.
Masoli will undergo a bone-based surgical procedure on his leg and miss the next 10-12 weeks. His teammates, especially receiver Nate Behar, were livid about Marino’s cheap shot and behaviour. This post game rant for Behar was an all-timer. He lit up Marino, the Rider fans who cheered Marino, and the referees for not clamping down on dirty plays earlier in the game.
The CFL investigated for three days and came up with three separate suspensions for Marino, totalling four games. One of the suspensions was for racial taunts which the CFL described in their press release this way:
“A one-game suspension for verbal comments Marino made about Masoli’s heritage during the game, which clearly violates our Code of Conduct.”
Bear in mind, the CFL has championed diversity for many years. They even have “Diversity is Strength” on the menu of their website. When that’s your motto, just one game for racial taunts feels very weak, like a punishment we might have seen doled out 30 years ago.
Masoli was equally unimpressed and disappointed, penning a heartfelt open letter to the CFL Tuesday night and posting it to social media.
It’s tough for anyone to argue with any of that.
Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson wasn’t happy about the incident but didn’t acknowledge the racist comments and has no plans to release Marino for what he did or what he said.
“We’re not gonna give up on him, everybody makes mistakes,” said Dickenson in a media scrum this week. “Goodness gracious, it would be rough if we all were judged on our worst moment and hopefully, we won’t judge him forever on a situation where he got out of control and his emotions got the best of him.”
It’ll be interesting to see how his team reacts when Marino returns to that room next month. Are they supposed to believe this was Marino’s “worst moment,” a one-time mistake? Are they supposed to go to battle with a guy who says things like that?
It’s the kind of thing that can unravel a team’s season.
Meanwhile, the REDBLACKS immediately tried to shore up the QB position this week by acquiring Nick Arbuckle from Edmonton for a fourth rounder. It’s round two for Arbuckle, who was ready to start for Ottawa in 2020 but never played, as the CFL season was wiped out by COVID. New coach Paul LaPolice wanted a QB he was more familiar with so the team shipped Arbuckle out and signed Matt Nichols. So, if the season is to be saved, LaPolice may have to lean on a QB he didn’t want last year.
While Arbuckle gets up to speed, backup Caleb Evans will run the show in Hamilton Saturday afternoon in what should have been Masoli’s homecoming.