Accountability of athletes

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image: Haley Klassen

image: Haley Klassen

Athletes are held under microscopes for their actions

Article: Evan Radford – Contributor

Trevis Smith and Kenton Keith now have something in common with Dwight Anderson, Taj Smith, and Eron Riley: all five Saskatchewan Roughriders, past and present, have had off-field troubles with the law.

Smith was convicted of aggravated sexual assault: he knowingly transmitted HIV to two of his sexual partners during his stint with the Riders (1999-2005). Keith was charged with aggravated assault for his alleged role in a street fight outside of a Regina bar on Dewdney Avenue in July of 2006.

But, details of Anderson’s, Taj Smith’s, and Riley’s cases have yet to fully emerge.

The Leader-Post has reported all three players, Anderson and Taj Smith on Sep. 12, and Riley on Sep. 13, have been charged with aggravated assault. The charges stem from an alleged fight between the three players and twenty-year-old Jonathan Kitano Mukendi on the night of Aug. 18, outside the Bushwakker Brewpub on the famed Dewdney Strip.

In Saskatchewan, a province where fans are passionate and at times extreme in their support or disdain for the Roughriders (see manure dumping and Paul McCallum), athletes are under the microscope; they’re expected to behave as ambassadors for their teams and their larger communities, on and off the field.

Scrutiny is evident at the high school level, too.

Lorena Leibel is head coach of the Campbell Tartans Senior Girls Volleyball team. She and her collegues expect student athletes’ behaviour to be top notch:

“We expect them to represent the school well; we told them they’re under a microscope. You’re expected to represent the team in a positive manner. Via social media, they need to behave in a respectful manner. For example, if we’re playing a tough team and we lose, [athletes should not be] bad mouthing an opponent,” say Leibel.

Leibel says this scrutiny should be expected.

“It’s no different than being a teacher; when you’re a teacher, you’re a teacher 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

Frank McCrystal, head coach of the University of Regina Rams, agrees student athletes are equally accountable at the collegiate level.

“It’s a two edged sword. Being part of [the Rams] opens and closes doors for you. If you’re gonna be a star …with that comes responsibility. You can’t pick and choose what [will be said] about you; you have to go about your business and work toward success on the playing field and off.”

Dylan Coffey is in his red shirt season with the U of R Men’s Volleyball team. He says the three Riders “should have been benched” for their game on Sep. 14 against the visiting Toronto Argonauts, “assuming [the team] has some kind of policy about behaviour outside of the team.”

As a student athlete, Coffey recognizes he’s an ambassador for his team and the U of R.

“Wearing the Cougar logo, I think people really look up to you. When you’re outside the team, you need to represent the team well in whatever you do.”

If he was reprimanded for off-field misconduct, he’d view it as “letting down [his] teammates.”

He says, “Everyone relies on each other to represent the team and the school. I would feel disappointed in myself for letting the team down, the school down, and coaches down.”

As for the Roughriders, the team adopted a code of conduct in March of 2007; it’s available on the Riderville website. The code applies to all “Club Personnel,” covering CFL events and all other events “taking place in any public place.”

When a player is found to have breached the code, the football club determines what action should be taken.

“Action in this regard may include a direction regarding counselling or other remedial action, a reprimand or a suspension or termination of employment.”

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