It’s been one week since the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hired disgraced Baylor University head coach Art Briles and fans attending Monday’s Labour Day Classic are still fuming — even though the decision was quickly reversed.
“It hasn’t felt right all week. I appreciate they’ve recognized it’s a mistake and [they] tried to move past it, but it doesn’t feel like Labour Day,” said longtime Ticats fan Laura Stewart.
Briles, 61, was fired in May 2016 as Baylor’s head football coach after an investigation discovered the school mishandled numerous sexual assault allegations, including some against football players. Last Monday he was hired by the Ticats. That same day the CFL intervened and said Briles would not be joining the team.
Stewart debated all week whether she should attend Monday’s game and if she did, how she would show her disapproval of the hiring. She settled on making sexual assault awareness ribbons.
“I made 53 ribbons,” she said.
“Fifty-two for the number of sexual assault cases that have been reported between 2011 and 2014. And the 53rd for anyone who hasn’t come forward and has been quiet about it.”
According to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a former Baylor student, between 2011 and 2014, there were 52 acts of rape committed by 31 different players. Briles was head coach at the time.
Stewart is wearing one of the ribbons and was emotional attending Monday’s game.
“I align myself so much with this team because of what they preach. Community. Being in and supporting the community. This is in complete contrast of that and it hurt me.”
CFL commissioner responds
Prior to Monday’s Labour Day Classic, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie spent time at the Ticats’ tailgate party talking to fans. He says he knows they still have work to do after the Briles fiasco.
“I think mostly I’m hearing appreciation for the fact that we got it right. I think they’re proud of the fact we got it right,” Ambrosie said. “You have to spend time with these fans and in the community.”
Ambrosie stepped in last week and made it clear that Briles would not be joining the Ticats. The backlash from fans and organizations was strong and swift. Ambrosie says he heard the fans loud and clear.