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CFL Team Backtracks on Briles Hire

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USA TODAY

 

Second chances are not given, they have to be earned.

Art Briles found that out the hard way Monday night, when the Canadian Football League fired him a mere 12 hours after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced he had been hired. It seems callous indifference to sexual assault tends to turn off the people with the purse strings.

"Art Briles will no longer be joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a coach," the CFL said in a statement. "We came to this decision this evening following a lengthy discussion between the league and the Hamilton organization. We wish Mr. Briles all the best in his future endeavors."

Left unsaid is what should not need to be said: Until Briles demonstrates that he has learned from his failings at Baylor, he is not deserving of another job, let alone a chance at redemption. It doesn't matter that he has a 99-65 lifetime record and won back-to-back Big 12 titles.

It doesn't even matter that he tutored Robert Griffin III, who, according to ESPN, the Tiger-Cats just happen to get first crack at if the former Heisman Trophy winner decides to go the CFL route now that his NFL career has gone belly up.

Schools don't get rid of coaches that turn their programs from backwater doormats into national powerhouses without good reason. And Baylor had good reason, a damning report finding that his staff had ignored or actively discouraged sexual assault complaints involving football players, including four alleged gang rapes.

According to a Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor in May -- the seventh, for those keeping track -- Briles' response when told about one of the gang-rape complaints was to say, "Those are some bad dudes. ... Why was she around those guys?"

Which leads us to the question the Tiger-Cats should have asked themselves: Why would they want to be around a bad dude such as Briles?

"We have stronger expectations for sports teams and their administrations," Lenore Lukasik-Foss, director of the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area, told USA TODAY Sports. "We expect more in our community."

Fortunately the community expects more of itself, too.

From ABReport: Baylor, Briles Reach Contract Settlement

In the hours after Briles' hiring was announced, fans and advocacy groups were quick to register their disapproval. But the strongest rebuke, and one that likely made the most impact, came from Barry's, a jeweler that is a sponsor of the Tiger-Cats.

"It is with profound disappointment that we heard the news of the hiring of Art Briles," Barry's said in a statement posted on its website and social media platforms. "We strongly condemn and urge the team's management and ownership to immediately sever any ties they may have. Mr. Briles may or may not have a valid coaching track record, but to choose the chance of winning football over the importance of values goes beyond our core values and is absolutely not acceptable."

Barry's also said it would contribute a portion of its sales the next two months to SACHA, Lukasik-Foss' group, and provided a link so others can donate, too.

The CFL was noticeably silent for much of the day, not announcing until later in the afternoon that it was in "discussions" with the Tiger-Cats. But anyone reading between the lines knew that Briles' fate was sealed.

Baylor's problems went well beyond the football program. The Pepper Hamilton investigation found widespread denial about sexual violence, along with a tendency to blame the women who made complaints.

But some of the harshest condemnation was reserved for the athletics department and Briles' football program, where investigators found "a cultural perception that football was above the rules." Baylor regents said last fall that 19 players were accused of sexual assault by 17 women between 2011 and 2014, including two players who were brought to Baylor by Briles despite being dismissed from previous schools for off-the-field incidents.

Now, it's possible Briles has learned from his failings at Baylor. But his apologies so far have been tone deaf -- he suggested in one that all could be forgiven with "a good cry session, a good talk session and then, hopefully, a hug session" -- with no recognition of the responsibility he bears for fostering a culture of violence.

Granted, being an assistant coach for a professional team is better than Briles having 100 or so teenagers and 20-somethings under his care. But not by much.

Sexual violence is a societal problem for which there can be no tolerance, excuses or ignorance. Someone who has not demonstrated a clear understanding of this -- quite the opposite, in fact -- has no business being in any position of authority.

Briles' might deserve a second chance someday. But that day is not now.

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August 29, 2017
 
 
 

 

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