Chad Kelly at the 2023 CFL Awards. Nov 16, 2023; Niagra Falls, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly poses with the trophy after winning the George Reed Most Outstanding Player during the CFL Awards at Fallsview Casino & Resort. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Every case involving court actions against an athlete is different, and there are a lot of dimensions to consider there. Those include if the allegations in question are civil or criminal, what exactly is alleged, and more. But with all that said, most leagues and teams tend to put at least some level of statement along the lines of “we take this seriously, and are investigating” after facing serious allegations.

That has not yet happened with the Canadian Football League or the Toronto Argonauts around the harassment and wrongful termination allegations filed in a civil lawsuit by a former Argos’ strength coach against the team and QB Chad Kelly Thursday. And that’s especially notable considering how Kelly is the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player. As of 7 p.m. Eastern Friday, the CFL response to this was extremely muted, and said they were “reviewing.” But it had no mention of an investigation or even taking this seriously. Here’s that, via Farhan Lalji of TSN:

This comes after many past legal issues involving Kelly. Those include a 2018 incident where he struck a photographer and then broke into a couple’s home. They also include a 2014 arrest where he told a bouncer “I’m going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place.”

Of course, the CFL has long proven a useful second-chance league for players previously in legal trouble. And those past incidents with Kelly would not have been a major problem if he had maintained good behavior while in the league. But this lawsuit certainly suggests that he has not done that. And the league’s limited response to date has drawn a lot of comment. Here’s some of that:

A notable part of this is that the CFL has previously taken significant measures to ban players even under suspicion of improper activity. In 2014, they specifically changed their rules to block NFL RB Ray Rice amidst the domestic violence investigation into him, and they only let Johnny Manziel in under strict conditions (and eventually parted ways with him over a violation of those conditions). And there have been many other cases of the league intervening with clubs around allegations of criminal or civil litigation. So the “aware of” and “reviewing” is remarkably limited considering their own history.

This is not to say that the CFL should necessarily suspend or ban Kelly at this point. There’s likely much still to come here, and some of that may emerge if and when this lawsuit makes its way through the court system. But the league response to date has seemed very limited compared to how they’ve handled past situations involving CFL athletes facing civil or criminal allegations, and that’s raised speculation on if Kelly’s prominence (including the 2023 MOP award, the league’s top honour) is impacting the CFL response. Even just a “We take these allegations seriously, and we’re investigating” statement would go a long way. But that has not come yet.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.