The Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes won their eighth Grey Cup championship, and their fourth since 2000 (but their first since 2010), on Sunday night. This CFL contest saw them as heavy underdogs against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who were appearing in their fourth-straight Grey Cup game. But Montreal came out with the win thanks to a touchdown in the last 15 seconds. And that led to an epic postgame rant in French from French-Canadian safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy, displayed with captions here:
Marc-Antoine Dequoy's speech for the ages (TRANSLATED TO ENGLISH) pic.twitter.com/1zmmesLLmw
— HFTV (@HFTVSports) November 20, 2023
“They never believed in us, man! You look everywhere, it’s written in English. You checked TSN, it was written, Toronto vs. Winnipeg. You come here and they only speak English. But you know what, man? Keep your English! Because we’re taking the Cup! We’re going to bring it to Montreal! Back to Quebec! And we’re going to lift it at home! Because we’re the ******* champions! Let’s goooooooo!!!”
There is some notable context to Dequoy’s comments here. There was a controversy early in this Grey Cup week when it was revealed that the playing surface at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field had only English-language “CFL” signage, not French-language LCF signage. That was eventually altered before game day, but only with smaller LCF logos:
Here's a reminder, Canada, that *your* voice matters.
After the outcry and public humiliation the CFL went through for having only English stadium signage at Grey Cup, I'm told a last-minute paint job is coming for two 'LCF' logos on each 25-yard-line for Sunday's game. https://t.co/Yx9dZXfXij
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) November 18, 2023
And there were some further issues here, with the TSN TV guide reportedly initially describing the Grey Cup game as the Toronto Argonauts (who were 16-2 and highly favored in the East Final, but lost to the Alouettes) against the Blue Bombers. And there’s a long-standing issue with French-Canadian players complaining about their treatment by the CFL. That includes previous famed French-Canadian Alouettes safeties Étienne Boulay and Matthieu Proulx in 2010 about Grey Cup accommodations, saying they haven’t been treated fairly by the league. So this is not a new issue at all. And there’s some merit to it.
The CFL faces an interesting challenge on the bilingualism front. There is one team (the Alouettes) where French coverage particularly matters, and another (the Ottawa Redblacks) where it somewhat matters. For most of the league’s other seven teams, there isn’t necessarily a notable local French fanbase. But it still makes sense for the league to have and promote French-language coverage, as it has a lot of French-first players. And it’s notable that football has seen huge popularity in Quebec, and that the Laval Rouge et Or have won five of the last 10 Vanier Cup national championships there, and the Montreal Carabins (where Dequoy played) also won one in 2014 under current Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia and will play for another next week.
It’s also notable that in further comments, Dequoy defended his defense of French-language-first players and fans. But he also said he appreciated all the support the Alouettes get from their English-first fans, including after this win:
The full transcript on Dequoy’s comments: pic.twitter.com/Vz1yypyHE2
— Kenzie Lalonde (@KenzieTSN) November 20, 2023
It’s hard to argue with Dequoy here. And yes, there are significant challenges and costs to trying to make a whole league bilingual, and to catering to fans that are not an overwhelming portion of the whole. But the NBA and MLB do that with Canadian flags and anthems for just one team, and the NHL does that with flags and anthems for seven teams (although they have a similar-to-the-CFL situation, with a much higher percentage of players from that area than teams from that area). French Canadians have meant a ton to the CFL in terms of players, fans, and more, and the league should recognize that. And if they do, hopefully there will be less language controversies at future Grey Cups.
[HFTV Sports on Twitter]