The Edmonton Eskimos were fined $20,000 and head coach Jason Maas was fined $15,000 for refusing to wear live microphones during a game in Montreal, the Canadian Football League announced Wednesday.
The head coach and quarterback of both clubs were mandated to wear microphones for television during Edmonton’s 40-20 victory over the Alouettes on Monday, but Maas and quarterback Mike Reilly refused to put them on. No penalty was assessed against Reilly.
Commissioner Jeffrey Orrige said that if Maas refuses to wear a mic when asked to in any future game he will receive the maximum fine allowable and be suspended one game.
Eskimos president and CEO Len Rhodes said his club accepts the league’s decision.
"Last Monday, our football club failed to honour the commitment we had previously made to the league to follow through on the live mic broadcast," Rhodes said in a statement. "By failing to act on our commitment, we let our peers down across the league.
"For this, we are sorry and we sincerely apologize to our league, our broadcast partner TSN and to CFL fans from coast-to-coast. Today, the commissioner has levied significant fines against our football club and our head coach. We respect and fully support this decision. The long-term interests of our league as a whole must always supersede the interests of any individual or any one team.
Orrige’s strongly worded statement called the incident "a direct contravention of a directive from this league’s board of governors, a motion that was supported by all nine clubs.
"It was unfair to our fans, who had been promised a live mic game, to our broadcast partner, who had advertised a live mic game, and to the other clubs in the league who had abided by the board’s directive to participate in live mic games. It was totally unacceptable."
He held Maas personally accountable.
"The fact that coach Maas has expressed no remorse whatsoever for what appears to be a unilateral and planned act of defiance is particularly disappointing," Orrige said. "I want to send a clear signal that this cannot happen again."
Maas and Reilly said after the game they elected not to be mic’d up because it made them uncomfortable and they didn’t want any distractions during a game they needed to win to help improve their playoff position. Both said they were prepared to live with any league discipline it incurred.
"They can’t hold a gun to your head to make you do it so we just decided not to do it," Maas said after the game. "It’s what’s right for our football club, not what’s right for the other people, that’s the bottom line.
"We just decided between Mike and I not to do it and we’ll live with the consequences."
Reilly said he was told by the CFL Players Association it was his choice whether to wear a mic or not.
"We played the game, we got the win and that’s all I care about," said Reilly.
The league named Reilly one of its players of the week for his performance in the game, which included throwing for two touchdowns and running in another himself.
Montreal coach Jacques Chapdelaine said the Eskimos refusal to wear mics gave them an unfair advantage.