Toronto Mayor Rob Ford did his best to avoid awkwardness at a soccer event on Wednesday after it was revealed that the company hosting it had ridiculed his drug use on its website and Facebook page.
Mr. Ford went to Soccerworld Polson Pier to pledge his support for a soccer clinic the company will run with the Real Madrid Foundation this summer for underprivileged children. The mayor took a few shots at the net with some young players after presenting a scroll of the city to Soccerworld president Rob Ortali and representatives of the Real Madrid.
But Mr. Ford was mum on the blog post from last December, now deleted from the Soccerworld website, that mocked him in a list of the “Top 5 reasons Soccerworld is nothing like Rob Ford,” including: “We don’t smoke crack.”
The post – which made the rounds on social media on Wednesday morning before the event – lambasts the mayor for “getting together with shady individuals” (a reference to his friendship with alleged drug dealer Alessandro Lisi). It also asks: “How can someone run a business of this magnitude while smoking crack? Crack smokers can’t hold onto the most basic of jobs. Why? Because they are too busy eating chocolate and looking for more crack.”
The mayor did not respond to questions about the blog at the event.
Mr. Ortali said he did not know who wrote the post, and that he had not read it until reporters brought it to his attention.
“We have no position on the mayor,” he said, adding that he has apologized to Mr. Ford. “We liked that he showed up to our event today, and he’s the representative of our city.”
When reporters pointed out to Mr. Ortali that he had “liked” a Facebook post linking to the blog, he said again that he had never read it. His Facebook profile also shared the post in early December, with the comment: “Superb!”
“I like a lot of stuff,” he said. “A lot of times I don’t read it. Basically, I’ll just press ‘like, like, like, like, like.’”
A separate post on the Soccerworld Facebook page – also “liked” by Mr. Ortali – features a photo of the mayor with the words “I don’t always smoke crack. But when I do, it’s in a drunken stupor.”
And though Mr. Ford ducked questions about the Soccerworld website, he was eager to talk to reporters about transit – a key plank in his re-election campaign.
The mayor told reporters he would like streetcars phased out of the city entirely, while acknowledging that it could take – by his estimation – 20 to 30 years to do so.
The city signed a $1.2-billion contract with Bombardier in 2009 to buy 204 streetcars.
“I won’t be buying any more as mayor, and I’m going to be mayor for a long time, much to your chagrin,” he told reporters.
“I never supported them,” Mr. Ford said of that contract. “I got stuck paying the bill, though.”
The mayor’s campaign manager, his brother Councillor Doug Ford, also took the opportunity on Wednesday to debut new “Robbie Bobbie” bobbleheads to reporters, with some new versions being used for campaign fundraising.
A “special edition” bobblehead will depict the mayor in a football tie, and the $100 price will be a campaign donation, Councillor Ford said.
Upcoming versions will also include a “Tuxedo Rob,” Councillor Ford said, as well as a “Jimmy Kimmel” edition – featuring the mayor in the black suit and red tie he wore on the late-night show last month.