Madani: CFL failed with Carter’s light punishment

Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Duron Carter was handed a one-game suspension Monday by the CFL "for actions that violated the standards of acceptable conduct." (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Those who take transit to and from work know what morning rush hour is like: a blur of people are coming and going, often in a rush, yet everyone knows their place. Without exception, you don’t see one person knock down another to get to the train. Basics.

Which brings us to Duron Carter, who knew exactly what he was doing after his touchdown catch—knocking over Ottawa coach, Rick Campbell, then taking a hairpin turn into the Redblacks bench, inciting chaos in Montreal’s week two loss at home.

It was ridiculous, it was beyond unprofessional and more than anything else, inexcusable. Nobody does what Carter did. Not in any league, on any field. Not in high school, not in college, not even on your flag football team, let alone the pros. The Alouettes almost immediately fined their own receiver, bracing for what the league office would have in store.

This was the CFL’s chance, in a precedent-setting move, to send a statement and a message: Such repulsive actions have no place in the Canadian game.

Of course, by now you may know that the league, inexplicably, failed in a spot where it had to deliver. That the fly-off-the-handle Carter will—wait for it now—sit out for one game.

The incident Thursday night was a black mark for the league, yet had the discipline of it been handled properly, the aftermath would be quite different. They had the full holiday weekend to review the matter, to responsibly hand down a three-game suspension and make it clear to everyone across the Canadian Football League how intolerable Carter’s decisions were.

Interviews were held, video was reviewed, and… all they could muster was a one-game penalty.

One game for hitting a coach, for waltzing through an opponents’ sideline, for instigating what could have been—and thankfully wasn’t—a much more disgusting and dangerous moment. The CFL is quite fortunate Carter’s incident didn’t get uglier. That more liberties weren’t taken by Ottawa players, that an all-out brawl didn’t ensue.

Perhaps no incident in sport was worse than the Malice At The Palace, between the Pistons and Pacers, in 2004. Guess what’s happened since the man formerly known as Ron Artest got a season-long suspension? No basketball player has dared to even think about climbing into the stands.

You don’t knock over an old man before the doors close on the morning train to the office, and you don’t do what Duron Carter did. Basics. With the toothless discipline the league has handed down, the CFL is opening the door for repeat offences. Now coaches and players know exactly what lies ahead should it happen again.

Professional football is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. Coaches instruct players, players do what they’re told. Players know what their coaches want. And if that’s to take out another team’s star, what is preventing anyone from doing so if the maximum suspension is only one game?

Last week, a detailed press release outlined the commissioner’s involvement in fining a player for helmet-to-helmet contact, and included a quote from one of the league’s top football operations executives to explain why.

Just before 7 p.m. ET on Monday, the league sent out word of the Carter suspension with no explanation, nor comment, from any of its top football people. Simply that the Alouettes receiver will miss Montreal’s next game “for actions that violated the standards of acceptable conduct within the CFL.”

Then came the comedy: They fined Campbell for getting knocked over by Carter.

The next time you watch a professional football game, pay close attention to what happens immediately after a touchdown. Most wearing either pads or a headset call it organized chaos.

Personnel from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball are running on and off the field; special teams coaches will jump out past the sideline to call for their kick unit, while the head coach will survey to see if the scoring team will go for two—or not. In this case, while this was unfolding, Campbell kept an eye on the video board to see where coverage broke down that allowed Carter to catch the touchdown pass.

In fining the Redblacks coach, the league stated “a thorough review concluded [Campbell] could have done more to avoid contact with the player.”

Oh, more could have been done all right. But not by the coach. The league blew it with handing down only a one-game suspension. The CFL had to do more here. And that’s as basic as getting onto the morning train.

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