Eventually, the Calgary Stampeders will get around to playing a football game against the B.C. Lions this coming Sunday. You may have heard of it. The CFL’s Western Conference final. A berth in a historic Grey Cup at stake.
But on Wednesday, they were busy putting out fires again. This time, it was outspoken slot back Nik Lewis in the eye of the storm. For reasons known only to him, Lewis thought it would be funny to tweet on Tuesday: “I just bought OJ’s gloves on eBay. Now all I need is a white girl named Nicole.” He then added: #MaybeALittleToFar.
The CFL fined Lewis an undisclosed sum for breaching the league’s social media policy, but didn’t suspend him for the Western final. Lewis wasn’t ducking the cameras and microphones Wednesday, and he wasn’t apologizing either. His explanation was that anyone who knows him also understands that his brand of humour tends to be edgy - and that's all this was, an attempt to be a funny guy.
“TSN did call me the sixth funniest athlete of all time,” said Lewis. “I tried to use my comedic rights – and I guess I went a little too far."
Lewis went on to say:
“The people that know me know that I try to be funny all the time. I don’t mean any malice or harm to anybody. But it goes far beyond the people who know me, so I’ll just keep my jokes to the people who know me. Is it right what I said? Probably not.
“But, I mean, in today’s world, when you see comedians do it and things like that, I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just, you get a part of it.”
Stamps coach John Hufnagel wasn’t amused, and said he was prepared to fine Lewis until the CFL jumped in and did it first.
“I had a chat with Nik this morning and also chatted with the football team," said Hufnagel. "It was not something I would have liked to have been doing. It’s something we, as an organization, do not condone, and needed to take care of.”
Hufnagel didn’t want to go into details about his conversation with Lewis, saying only: “Why don’t you talk to Nik about that and see what he got out of my little chat with him?”
Lewis’s answer when the question was put to him: “I’ve said a lot of things that’s walking that line. I told him, I’ll stay away from that line. Sometimes, you go over that line and sometimes, you don’t. But I’ll stay away from that line, out of respect for him and out of respect for our ownership and the city of Calgary. I’ll just stay away from the line a little bit more.”
Hufnagel said he asked the players to stay off social media until the season is over, but acknowledged: “We’ll see how that goes.”
Lewis said he’s fine with following Hufnagel’s directive not to tweet until the season is over, but isn’t planning to give it up entirely either.
“I’m going to tweet in the off-season. I’ll just be smarter about what I tweet. I guess I’m not as funny as I thought I was.”
Does Lewis regret what he did?
“I regret money being taken out of my pocket," answered Lewis. "I regret saying it. But I can’t take it back. That’s just something you go through in life. My life has been about overcoming things and I’ve always overcame and I’ll just continue to push forward and overcome this.
“When I go out there on Sunday, I’ll just prove why I’m here – and it’s not because of Twitter. I didn’t get a job because of Twitter. I got a job because I’m a good athlete.”
Hufnagel grew up in a different and what seemed like a more civilized time. Is it even possible to impose taste or common sense on athletes in today’s anything-goes era?
“You try,” answered Hufnagel. “There’s no question about it, I grew up in a different decade, era, century, whatever you want to call it. But you’re dealing with young men that grab a lot of attention, and sometimes, they don’t understand the attention that people pay to them, or the role models they are expected to be.
“I think each and every team has had situations, where they have to deal with something like this. Again, I will say this: This organization is not proud of what occurred.”
"Even my Facebook, I add anyone who wants to add me as a friend because I open my life up to people, and I’ve always thought about closing the gap between professional athletes and kids and everybody else around us. I’m no different than anybody else.
“They put me on a pedestal to be a certain type of player or a certain type of person, but I want to let kids to know, you don’t have to live up to standards, you just have to be yourself. And this is who I am. By no rights do I mean to go out and disrespect people. I didn’t mean any disrespect by it.”
Hufnagel sounded as if he'd rather be talking about football than the new technology, but said this could be a valuable lesson for Lewis and others.
“We’re dealing with young men and the technology and they’re finding the danger about the technology,” said Hufnagel. “Sometimes, the learning experience and the learning curve is more steep than what it should be. I’m hoping this finally makes everybody aware of the danger. Something you may not feel is a threatening remark or a contentious remark, it can be.”