It's been an interesting few days for the Calgary Stampeders, who pulled off a last-second win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's West semifinal, but instead of being able to calmly focus on getting set to face the B.C. Lions this week, have so far been dealing with everything from concussion controversies about quarterback Drew Tate to questions about Nik Lewis' post-game trash talk about B.C. (copies of which were put in the Lions' lockers before practice Monday). Now, Lewis may have made things even worse, thanks to his decision to tweet a reference to the O.J. Simpson murder case. (Update: Lewis has since been fined by the league.) The tweet in question has since been deleted, but via Eric Francis of The Calgary Sun, here's what happened and how it may put Lewis in management's doghouse:
Nobody hates this crap more than John Hufnagel.
Nobody would have been more upset at the sheer stupidity exhibited by Nik Lewis on Twitter Monday than ol' Huf.
Hours after the Calgary Stampeders GM/head coach tried to clean up the mess his quarterback, Drew Tate, made with his flippant suggestion he misremembered the first half in Sunday's win Lewis takes to Twitter with this doozy:
"I just bought OJ's gloves on eBay. Now all I need is a white girl named Nicole."
He added, complete with grammatical error: #MaybeALittleToFar
Indeed, way too far — especially at a time when the head coach, receiver and the rest of the team should be focused on the biggest game of the year so far: Sunday's CFL West final against the host B.C. Lions (2:30 p.m., TSN/QR77). Instead, Wednesday's post-practice interviews will revolve around Lewis, who will almost certainly be told by Hufnagel to make himself scarce.
The Lewis situation has already drawn plenty of reaction, and it's certainly going to be at least looked at by the league. A suspension in advance of the West Final seems extremely unlikely, though. It's worth noting that B.C. defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell's racial slur on Twitter earlier this year only earned him a fine from the league, and his actual suspension for those comments came from his own team. It wouldn't seem logical to expect the league to deliver a more substantial penalty here, and especially when you consider that it's the playoffs, the Stampeders aren't exactly likely to suspend their top receiver ahead of a crucial playoff game.
Nor should they. While Lewis' comments are extremely problematic, and the club and league should both look at fining him, it's not particularly worth taking him out of this game for some ill-advised Twitter comments. Keep in mind that this is not some minor component we're talking about here; Lewis led the Stampeders with 1,241 receiving yards this season, while none of their other receivers had more than 744. Taking one of their biggest weapons out because of some stupid comments might be even dumber than what Lewis tweeted, and that's why the club won't likely do it.
Should the CFL itself look at instituting more substantial penalties for problematic uses of social media, including league-imposed suspensions? From here, the answer's no, especially when you consider that many dangerous on-field plays are still only being punished with fines rather than suspensions. The league should deal with that log in their eye first and protect their players' health, perhaps by saying that any hit to the head is an automatic suspension, before they worry about suspensions over players' tweets, which look rather mote-like by comparison. Sure, fine Lewis and send a message that this kind of conduct isn't acceptable. Next to elements of the game like the Tearrius George hit to the head that raised concussion questions about Tate, though, a terrible tweet seems rather minor by comparison. Lewis messed up and made his team and league look bad here, and he should be punished for doing so, but as always, it's what happens on the field that matters most. Altering that thanks to a problematic tweet would be an exceptionally bad idea.