Redblacks suspend Chris Larsen amid investigation into alleged homophobic incident

An Ottawa Redblacks helmet is shown before a CFL game in Ottawa on Oct. 24, 2014. (Justin Tang/CP)

TORONTO — The Ottawa Redblacks have suspended a defensive lineman after Toronto Police launched an investigation into a possible hate crime.

The Canadian Football League team said Wednesday night that player Chris Larsen is being investigated for an alleged assault which happened on Toronto Island.

Mark Goudie, CEO of the Redblacks’ parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said in a statement that they “were made aware of social media allegations of an assault by a group of individuals that included Chris Larsen and immediately commenced an investigation which is ongoing,” adding that they “were advised that an investigation by the Toronto Police is underway.”

Earlier Wednesday, Toronto police said the force’s hate crimes unit is investigating an aggravated assault that reportedly took place after one of the suspects made homophobic comments towards the victims.

Investigators say a man and a woman were walking to the docks Saturday when a disagreement broke out between them and a group of other people.

Police say a man from that group made the comments, and two men from the group assaulted the male victim, leaving him with significant injuries.

Officers were seeking three suspects — two men and a woman.

“We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” Goudie added.

The CFL also put out a statement Wednesday night, saying the league “is aware of violence against a LGBTQ2S+ community member, and the allegation that has been made against Chris Larsen.”

The CFL went on to say they “too take this allegation very seriously and look forward to the outcome.”

Larson could not be reached for comment.

No charges have been laid.

Toronto police did not confirm whether Larsen was being investigated following the announcement by the Redblacks.

“We would not speculate on those alleged to be involved until charges have been laid,” Toronto Police told The Canadian Press in a statement.

“However, if anyone has any information about the suspects they should contact police so we can thoroughly investigate.”

Larsen, 25, has not played a game in the CFL.

The Toronto native was picked in the sixth round, 54th overall, by the Redblacks in the 2019 CFL draft out of the University of Manitoba.

Larsen returned to Manitoba for the 2019 season.

The 2020 CFL season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he is disturbed by the reported assault that police are investigating, that there is no place for homophobia in the city and the use of homophobic language is “unacceptable,” as is any hate-motivated violence.

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