After a "disappointing" period where they hired a coach accused of covering up sexual assault, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have joined a program designed to discourage violence against women.
'Obviously, it was a disappointing short period of time for the organization.' - Scott Mitchell, Ticats CEO
The Ticats announced Thursday that they've joined "Be More Than a Bystander" program. It's a joint effort with Interval House of Hamilton, which offers shelter and support for abused women.
Players Courtney Stephen, Justin Vaughn and Terrell Davis will be featured in the program, as will former Ticat Mike Morreale.
Through the program, the team will record a series of public service announcements that will air at 2018 Ticats games, among other venues. They'll also go to high schools in February 2018, and host thousands of high school students next spring.
The program was already in the works when the team hired coach Art Briles in late August.
Briles was fired as head coach at Baylor University last year in the wake of a sexual assault scandal. In a recently settled lawsuit, a woman alleged knowledge of at least 52 acts of rape by more than 30 football players while Briles was head coach.
The Ticats hired Briles, only to rescind the offer less than 24 hours later after community and fan backlash.
Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell acknowledged the Briles controversy Thursday. Mitchell said it was a misstep.
"Obviously, it was a disappointing short period of time for the organization," Mitchell said.
"When things like that happen, you get a choice in how you're going to react to it. Obviously I feel like we've tried to work with our partners to react in a positive fashion."
It took a while to work out the program with Interval House, Mitchell said, because the team wanted to make sure it could adequately commit to it.
Nancy Smith, Interval House executive director, said Thursday's announcement is "not really about Art Briles."
"This is about a societal shift, about how we all need to be aware and mindful of our behaviour and the influence it can have, particularly on women and girls."
The team also pledged to include Be More Than a Bystander in its current community programs. That includes incorporating it into an annual Coaches Clinic, which hosted 80 coaches this year.
The Be More Than a Bystander campaign is offered through MentorAction, a group of male leaders who speak out against gender-based violence.