Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The most contentious element of Winnipeg Blue Bomber Johnny Sears' helmet-to-helmet hit on Toronto quarterback Steven Jyles last Friday isn't the hit itself or the one game suspension the CFL handed Sears yesterday. The infraction and the subsequent suspension and fine are cut-and-dried, done-and-done.
What's dubious is whether the league was acting within its limits of authority when it fined two Toronto players for their comments about the hit on social media. Argos offensive linemen Rob Murphy and Taylor Robertson, both of whom were injured and didn't play in Winnipeg, went on Twitter after the game to say that Sears is fortunate they weren't playing, and that they'll settle the score with him next season. Murphy and Robertson were fined an undisclosed amount by the CFL, and Murphy has indicated (via Twitter, where else?) that he will appeal, as well he should.
Social media is here to stay and like most of the rest of their generation, professional athletes are all over it. Finer legal minds than mine will be required to decide whether an athlete is answerable to his team or league for what he posts on Facebook or Twitter, and Murphy's appeal could go a long way towards determining whether players are liable to censure under the terms of their playing contracts and the collective bargaining agreement.
It would seem to my not-so-refined legal mind that as long as they're not uttering death threats, promoting hatred or dabbling in libel or slander, what anyone says on their personal social media account is their own business.