The Saskatchewan Roughriders are supporting a defensive lineman who has been suspended for four games by the Canadian Football League, the longest penalty ever dished out for in-game behavior by the league, but have also apologized to the player he injured.
The suspension was issued last Friday after the Roughriders’ 28-13 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks.
Garrett Marino received a two-game suspension for a dangerous and reckless low hit on Ottawa quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, which resulted in serious injury and Marino’s ejection from the game, and for Marino’s subsequent celebration of the hit.
He received a one-game suspension for verbal comments made about Masoli’s heritage during the game, which violates the CFL’s Code of Conduct. And he received another one-game suspension for his illegal and reckless tackle of an Ottawa offensive lineman on a previous play.
Previous play cited
The league also cited Marino’s discipline record after 12 CFL games, which includes a previous ejection and two fines for his manner of play.
“I think a message had to be sent, I really do. And I think he got it loud and clear,” Roughriders coach Craig Dickenson said on Tuesday.
“I think it’s just sad, sad deal for everybody. You know, there’s no winners in this. I understand the league had to come down hard and send a message, and they did. But we feel bad. We feel bad for everybody involved , including Jeremiah and including our guy.”
Along with the suspensions, Marino received a stern message from commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
“This behavior has no place in our league,” Ambrosie said in a written statement on Monday. “This discipline is intended to send a strong message that it will not be tolerated.”
Marino ‘just made a mistake’
Dickenson called the suspension “severe.”
“It’s unprecedented. I think for what he did on the field, it’s a little harsh.”
But Dickenson said Marino knows that his celebratory reaction after Masoli went down was a big mistake. He said the team does not condone that behavior and does not want to encourage it.
As for the comments Marino made toward Masoli, Dickenson does not think they came from a racist place.
“I don’t think Garrett’s a racist. I know Garrett personally. I know how much he’s grown in the last year. You know, we’re not gonna turn our backs on a guy that has shown that much growth in a short amount last year,” he said.
“I’m telling you, he was rough on the edges last year. He still is. But it’s been an a transformation in terms of his reacting to what others do and say on the field and also in the locker room.”
Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo also said he’s standing by his teammate.
“We just want to support Garrett, obviously, through this difficult time. It’s tough,” Fajardo said.
However, he added, there’s no excuse for Marino’s behavior.
“[It’s] the theatrics after the play, which we were all disappointed in,” Fajardo said. “We see a guy on the ground winning in pain and the last thing you want to do is celebrate, so that was very disappointing to see that.”
“He’s got much better character, much better moral than that. He just made a mistake. And emotions run high during a game, and sometimes you’re not all there.”
Fajardo says Marino is feeling terrible about the situation.
“After the fact, he told me he didn’t know that Masoli was down that bad, so that’s where I think the emotions kind of took over.”
Fajardo says he is praying for Masoli’s recovery.
Masoli speaks out
On Tuesday evening, Masoli feels out a tweet to the CFL about the incident and its fallout.
He said the “excuses” given by the head coach were poor and uninformed. He said he has received no apology from Marino, Dickenson or any executive from Saskatchewan.
“After playing 12 games and already with a previous ejection and two fines before this incident, it is clear Garrett Marino cannot control himself,” Masoli tweeted. “It’s an unacceptable pattern of behavior on top of the embarrassing way he celebrated as I was down shows how proud he is of his dirty ways.”
Masoli said the worst part was the “vile and disrespectful” type of behavior and racial insults Marino directed at him more than once.
“It’s sad that the hate and racist attitudes and racial insults are going to be punished with a slap on the wrist,” he tweeted.
Masoli said he is preparing for surgery and looking forward to the challenge of rehab and recovery.
Roughriders, Marino issue apologies Wednesday
On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders issued an apology to the Ottawa Redblacks quarterback.
The Roughriders said the club will be making a donation to the RedBlacks’ mentorship program in Masoli’s name. The program connects at-risk youth who have experienced racism and discrimination with mentors.
“The comments and actions of Garrett Marino on July 8 do not represent who we are as an organization or the work we do in the Saskatchewan community,” said the club in a statement.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders extend its sincerest apologies to quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. pic.twitter.com/qM9wssA5AY
Marino also issued his own apology on Wednesday. He said that his actions during the game have “no place in the game of football.”
Marino said he regrets making the comments and now understands their consequences.
“I know I play the game with an edge, and during the game I made an insensitive and culturally stereotypical remark.”
He said he will not be appealing the CFL suspension.
Marino also said he has been trying to get in touch with Masoli, and will continue to do so.