A McGill University football player facing charges connected to domestic violence served part of his community service sentence for a prior unrelated assault at the university's athletic centre.
Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota, a 22-year-old star running back in his third year of management studies, was suspended from the Redmen last week after being charged with assault and uttering threats against his estranged wife. Mr. Guimont-Mota had previously served a jail sentence in an unrelated 2010 assault of a man in Quebec City.
"Everyone knew about it," he said, adding that he had conversations about the assault. "I didn't speak directly to an office person, but between coaches, it's obvious that you are playing at McGill so you have to behave in a good manner … It's not only about myself any more. It's about school and team."
McGill has said in a statement that Mr. Guimont-Mota should not have been invited to join the team as a result of his conviction and that information about his past was not dealt with appropriately. The new revelation, confirmed by the university, shows that staff in the athletics department disagreed with that assessment and were willing to help Mr. Guimont-Mota redeem himself. There is no indication that senior administrative staff at the university were aware of the player and his legal history.
On Tuesday, Clinton Uttley, the coach of the Redmen football team resigned in protest against the university, arguing in a resignation letter that postsecondary institutions must not "shun those who have made an error in judgment."
Mr. Guimont-Mota has been playing football since he was in Grade 3 and rose to play with the Collège François-Xavier Garneau, which won the championship in the fall of 2011. He says a few universities were interested in recruiting him but the only university he considered was McGill because his coach at the College moved to the Redmen.
He said he did his community service at the sports complex in 2013 by helping out in the weight room, with building services and attending some charity events.
Mr. Guimont-Mota's laywer is going to seek an injunction in Quebec Superior Court to have him reinstated on the team. "The university seems to forget that he is presumed innocent. We want to preserve his career and his rights," said Steve Hanafi.
Observers say the controversy comes at a time that universities are having difficulty balancing the rights of students with demands from the community to be protected and for education on issues such as sexual violence on and off campus.
"There's a fear that we can't be political and athletic at the same time. That we can't talk to athletes about anything but what to eat, how to exercise, concussions. The repercussions are there with domestic violence, but the athletes suffer tremendously," said Gamal Abdel-Shehid, an associate professor in the school of kinesiology and health sciences at York University.
McGill said every incident leads to an assessment of that balance.
"We have 40,000 students; not every one of our students is perfect. If one of our students gets in trouble while they are a student obviously we want to support them. At the same time if we become aware of something that could pose a threat to the community, we have preventative measures we can take, but that would be in extreme cases. Generally we want to support them," said André Costopoulos, McGill's dean of students.
The McGill football team has had a sometimes troubled history to which the university's statement alluded. In April, 2012, three players were charged with sexually assaulting a female Concordia University student. The charges became public a year later and university officials at the time said they were not aware of the incident. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this fall. An internal review of all the rules and regulations surrounding participation in athletic programs is now under way.