On September 24th McGill University published a press release stating they had become knowledgeable of a McGill Redmen football player being arrested and charged and that the student would be suspended from football until his court dealings were concluded, carefully citing that this suspension was simply in accordance with the University’s values and athletic standards. Speculation around the charge, which was not indicated by the University in its press release, quickly began circulating – but the quick response from McGill (the student had only been charged earlier that morning) and very public release led many to believe the charge was, as rumoured to be, domestic violence.
Only a few hours later reports confirmed that 22-year old Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota, a running back and all star football player for the Redmen, had assaulted his 21-year old girlfriend and would be facing arraignment in court the following day. It confirmed for many of us that the preemptive public statement was McGill’s attempt to remain out of the shade surrounding athletes and violence and a quick method of applying band-aids to hypothetical wounds if they didn’t act quickly. This all largely influenced by the Ray Rice scandal in the NFL where a running back who assaulted his fiance, knocking her unconscious on film, was only ejected from the league after that film became public.
Some people applauded McGill’s response to the crime. Within hours they developed a press statement, suspended a player and maintained a public image, but is it enough? I suppose we could have asked that question last year, when the same football player was charged with assault and McGill not only allowed him to remain on the team but to serve his 90-day jail sentence once a week, in order to continue his training. Or perhaps we could ask if it was enough when the university refused to discipline three Redmen football players in 2012 after they were charged with the sexual assault and rape of a Concordia student.
Although McGill learned from past mistakes and responded more confidently to the charge, one could speculate it was simply putting water on the embers of an already burning fire.
McGill’s history of dealing with violence, specifically by football players, has never been one to applaud. And with notable public pressure for major athletic institutions to take hardline positions against violent players, it is hard to believe that McGill will ban the football player upon a conviction and repeat offence.
Unfortunately, it isn’t only McGill who fails to set a standard of non-violence to its students. Universities in general are also part of a trend in failed discipline.
Last year, the University of Ottawa administration refused to take disciplinary action against three male students for the sexual harassment and violent comments toward another. More recently a student from Columbia has been petitioning a university for action after being raped by a fellow student, Columbia administration also refuses to take any notable action.
Taking clear positions and hard-line action against students who commit acts of violence contributes to a greater effort in addressing the larger concern of violence against women in general, more specifically in recent headlines: violence perpetuated by professional athletes.
Guimont-Mota was a well-recognized and rewarded Football player, but by failing to remove Guimont-Mota from the Redmen football team, McGill reintroduces to the CFL and NFL a new Ray Rice. It tells other players that not only can you get away with assault and continue to associate with our University, but you can get away with it twice, be sentenced to jail, break your probation and still make it for the fall season kick-off.
By not entirely banning athletes who have committed violent crimes, universities are not simply remaining apathetic to the question of violence itself but instead they are taking a position on the side of that violence.