Ticats team up with Interval House
Fulfil promise to be more proactive
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
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.