CFL to bar suspended NFL players

With the Grey Cup only a few days away, CFL commissioner Tom Wright said the league will ban players suspended from the NFL starting in 2007.

With the Grey Cup only a few days away, CFL commissioner Tom Wright said the league will bar players suspended from the NFL starting in 2007.

The issue came to the forefront this season when suspended NFL star Ricky Williams was allowed to play with the Toronto Argonauts.

Williams's move to Toronto caused controversy because the Miami Dolphins running back has a history of positive drug tests for marijuana and is currently serving a one-year suspension from the NFL.

Under the new rule, Williams would no longer be welcome in the CFL.

Former Calgary Stampeder Greg Frers, now an analyst for the CFL on CBC, said the league had to take action to stop this kind of thing from happening again.

"I think it's the right thing to do. If [Williams] comes in and is able to get employment in the CFL, that comes with levels of baggage and messaging that we don't want to send to our fans," Frers told CBC Radio.

Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman doesn't see things the same way.

"The vast majority of players in this league are good quality people. And, candidly, some of the people that have made statements with regards to Ricky Williams I think were unbelievably hypocritical," Tillman said.

The rule also doesn't make sense to Michael Fletcher, William's teammate with the Argonauts.

"Ricky's not a criminal. You know, apparently, he's had drug problems or marijuana or whatever. So you don't [have] to worry about him going down the street getting into trouble; he's not one of those guys. I mean if it's not a criminal offence, I think guys should definitely have a second chance," Fletcher said.

Duane Forde, who played 12 years in the CFL, says the league has a record of giving second chances to a number of players with violent pasts and criminal records over the years.

He points to the example of former Montreal Alouettes running back Lawrence Phillips who, according to Forde, was accused of far worse than Williams.

"It's a less serious offence than a guy who beat up his girlfriend, dragged her down a set of stairs or even more recently tried to run down a group of kids with his car," Forde said.

Forde says what he finds troubling is that a player with a violent past such as Phillips could still play in the CFL under the new policy. If the player isn't suspended in the NFL, most likely, he'll still be allowed on the field in Canada.

The CFL says one of the reasons for the ban is to maintain a good relationship with the NFL.