Ticats team up with In­ter­val House

Ful­fil prom­ise to be more proac­tive

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and lo­cal women’s group In­ter­val House are hop­ing their new part­ner­ship will pro­duce pos­i­tive change in the wake of the Art Briles fi­asco.

The Ticats have fol­lowed through on their prom­ise to be proac­tive in fight­ing vi­o­lence against women in the wake the Briles con­tro­versy, which saw them hire the dis­graced Amer­i­can col­lege coach as an as­sis­tant, only to re­scind the of­fer less than 24 hours later af­ter a mas­sive back­lash from the com­mu­nity and me­dia across North Amer­ica.

Briles was ousted from his pre­vi­ous job as the head coach at Bay­lor af­ter a sex­ual as­sault scan­dal that rocked the univer­sity.

Briles’ de­ci­sion-mak­ing — and the Ticats’ sub­se­quent de­ci­sion to add him to their staff — have been touted as a prime ex­am­ples of the lack of aware­ness on is­sues sur­round­ing vi­o­lence against women in both the sport­ing world and com­mu­nity at large.

The team has part­nered with In­ter­val House, a lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides hous­ing and sup­port ser­vices for abused women, to join the “Be More Than a By­s­tander” cam­paign pro­gram, aimed at in­creas­ing “aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing about the im­pact of vi­o­lence against women and girls, and to speak out against de­mean­ing and in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour.”

The an­nounce­ment comes af­ter al­most a year of dis­cus­sion between the team and In­ter­val House and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Nancy Smith stressed that the re­la­tion­ship with the Ticats was not a re­sult of — nor de­terred by — the Briles con­tro­versy.

“In any great part­ner­ship, you’re go­ing to have some dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions be­cause you want the out­come to be im­pact­ful in meet­ing the ob­jec­tives,” Smith said.

“We will not com­pro­mise qual­ity, we will not set­tle, we will be in­te­gral to what we do. Part of your de­ci­sion is to main­tain the in­tegrity of your or­ga­ni­za­tion and to the women and chil­dren we serve. I won’t com­pro­mise any of it.”

The pro­gram will fea­ture cur­rent play­ers Courtney Stephen, Justin Vaughn, Ter­rell Davis and for­mer Ti­cat Mike Mor­reale, and fea­ture a com­mu­nity aware­ness cam­paign through the team’s web and so­cial me­dia plat­forms as well as a “Be More Than a By­s­tander” Day at Tim Hor­tons Field next sea­son.

The team will also in­cor­po­rate do­mes­tic vi­o­lence aware­ness and preven­tion into their ex­ist­ing pro­grams, in­clud­ing their high school men­tor­ship pro­grams and their clin­ics for lo­cal foot­ball coaches.

The play­ers in­volved un­der­went ex­ten­sive screen­ing be­fore be­ing se­lected and will un­dergo a rig­or­ous three-day train­ing ses­sion.

The Ticats are the third CFL to join the “Be More Than a By­s­tander” pro­gram.

“We know from our re­search that guys want to hear from other guys and they cer­tainly want to hear from celebri­ties who model that char­ac­ter,” Smith said. “The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have such a large fan base and they will be piv­otal in giv­ing the mes­sage a higher pro­file.”

Team CEO Scott Mitchell, who ini­tially de­fended the Briles hir­ing be­fore apol­o­giz­ing the fol­low­ing day, said the team will put the same amount of en­ergy and re­sources in the new ini­tia­tive as it does for other tent-pole com­mu­nity pro­grams such as the chil­dren’s health and well­ness-fo­cused BeFit.

“It was a dis­ap­point­ing short pe­riod of time for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. When things like that hap­pen, you get a choice on how you’re go­ing to re­act to it and I feel like we’ve tried to re­act in a very pos­i­tive fash­ion and turn a neg­a­tive into a very, very pos­i­tive thing for the com­mu­nity,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think this is about mend­ing fences. This is a long-term com­mit­ment.”

While the Hamilton Bull­dogs and the McMaster Ma­raud­ers joined the pro­gram more than a year ago, Mitchell said in­ter­nal or­ga­ni­za­tional is­sues played a role in de­lay­ing the team’s par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Smith is hope­ful get­ting the Ticats on board will be worth the wait — and the con­tro­versy sparked by their ill-fated hire.

“This is re­ally not about Art Briles. This is about a so­ci­etal shift on how we all need to be aware and mind­ful of our be­hav­iour and in­flu­ence and im­pact it can have, par­tic­u­larly on women and girls,” Smith said. “The pro­gram is not hav­ing men on our com­mu­nity speak for women. It’s about align­ing with women lead­ers and women in our com­mu­ni­ties around stop­ping and dis­rupt­ing abu­sive be­hav­iour to­wards women and girls.”

This is re­ally not about Art Briles. This is about a so­ci­etal shift. NANCY SMITH IN­TER­VAL HOUSE

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell, left, Nancy Smith, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of In­ter­val House of Hamilton, Val Sar­jeant, chair of Men­torAc­tion, and Matt Afinec, the team’s vice-pres­i­dent of busi­ness op­er­a­tions, an­nounce their co-op­er­a­tion on the Be More Than a By­s­tander pro­gram.

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