The Toronto Argonauts are distancing themselves from Toronto’s mayor after he sported the football team’s jersey at Toronto City Hall, where, on live television and before a crush of cameras, he made vulgar sexual remarks and admitted he may have driven while intoxicated.
Mayor Rob Ford, wearing a blue No. 12 Argonauts jersey, told reporters on Thursday morning he planned to sue his former employees after police interviews released on Wednesday revealed accusations of abusive behaviour by their boss, whom they also allege drove under the influence, used cocaine and kept the company of a suspected “professional escort.” None of the allegations has been proved in court.
“The situation with respect to the mayor and his leadership is unseemly at best,” the football club said in a series of posts via Twitter on Thursday morning. “These latest remarks, while wearing our team’s jersey, are particularly disappointing given our organization’s work in the community to help youth deal with issues of bullying prevention. We hope for the benefit of the wonderful citizens of Toronto and this great city that this situation is resolved expeditiously.”
At City Hall, Mr. Ford angrily said one of his friends who is mentioned in the police interviews is not a prostitute. He also denied allegations that he had wanted to perform oral sex on a former female staffer – using a slang word for women’s genitals – repeating that he was happily married.
Beyond wearing the team’s jersey while making statements about the allegations against him, Mr. Ford took the opportunity to address the rivalry between the Argos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who face off in the East Division final on Sunday, saying he wanted to call Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina to “tell him that we’re gonna have to spank the little Tiger-Cats.”
When asked if Mr. Bratina would take a call from Mr. Ford about the rivalry, Mr. Bratina’s chief of staff said she did not think so. “This is about football, it’s not about mayors,” Peggy Chapman said. “If it’s about city issues, perhaps.”
Speaking at the Argonauts’ practice at Rogers Centre on Thursday, executive chairman and chief executive officer Chris Rudge referred reporters to the team’s formal statement.
“One thing I will clarify is the mayor has not been invited to the game,” Mr. Rudge said. “I don’t know if he’s coming to the game. He does come down here on occasion and, like any other citizen, he can buy tickets and come down and cheer for the Argonauts. It’s an unfortunate situation for the city, and I hope we all move on pretty quickly.”
Within hours of what he described as “graphic remarks,” Mr. Ford apologized, saying he is under extreme stress.
“For the past six months, I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress,” he said at a press conference, where, flanked by his wife Renata, he told Torontonians he is getting professional help. “The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized, and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible. The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts, prostitution, has pushed me over the line. And I used unforgivable language, and again, I apologize. These allegations are 100-per-cent lies.”
With reports from Jill Mahoney, Dakshana Bascaramurty and Jeff Blair