Critics Blast Tiger-Cats Hiring of Art Briles, But Silent About Eric Tillman

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Art Biles
29 December 2015: Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles before the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Baylor Bears at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats deserve the heat they’re taking about their attempt to hire Art Briles. But let’s not ignore the hypocrisy coming from the other side either.

The North American media is hardly immune to grand-standing and the Art Briles controversy is no exception. A pro football team is having a terrible year, and now they’re feeding into a juicy narrative to boot. The Junes Jones era in Hamilton gets off to a rocky start before it even begins when he hires his old pal who just happens to be a disgraced American college football coach accused of not doing enough to prevent his players from raping women. It’s a talk show bonanza and ratings grabber.

Women’s groups and parents alike are outraged—as they ought to be—and so are Tiger-Cats season ticket holders. Some are even suggesting they would give their remaining tickets for the rest of the season away if the Tabbies wouldn’t reverse this horrendous mistake, blasphemy in Steeltown. Of course, the team quickly folded. But everybody is taking the moral high ground on this; where was this anger when the team hired Eric Tillman as General Manager?

Tillman Pled Guilty to Sexual Assault

Briles was not charged with anything criminal. Eric Tillman, by contrast, denied any wrongdoing for more than a year after he was accused of inappropriately touching his babysitter. Later, he changed his story and pled guilty—while blaming it all on back pain medication in the actual courtroom trial.

Tillman, who has always been very good at cozying up to the media, had to quit his job with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before getting his second chance later with the Edmonton Eskimos, and now the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He’s stayed out of trouble since, but the lack of outcry to his hiring compared to the tsunami engulfing the organization this week leads some of us to ask, “If it was okay to give Eric Tillman a second chance, then why is it so wrong for Art Briles?”.

It’s a legitimate question with few answers. One could argue the accusation against Tillman of groping a minor pales in comparison to facilitating a culture of rape. Or it could be a case of fans and media jumping on the bandwagon of criticism flowing from the American media because we take our lead from them. I’m leaning more toward the latter than the former.

If Art Briles had coached at UBC and left under a cloud of disgrace like he did from Baylor University, would anybody be saying anything about this? The difference in reaction to these two separate cases have been striking to say the least. Maybe it’s because Tillman has befriended much of the Canadian sports media while Briles has not.

Fans, Media Gave Tillman a Pass But Not Briles

The criticism of the Tiger-Cats’ mishandling of this whole mess is warranted. And June Jones hasn’t apologized; he merely watched team president Scott Mitchell take the bullets for him was utterly appalling. But the critics are guilty of their own grand-standing too. Sportsnet’s Arash Madani has trashed the Tabbies over this but had no such reaction when he was the first reporter to do a one-on-one interview with Eric Tillman after the Eskimos hired him back in 2010.

If you’re going to throw stones and present yourself as a credible journalist or observer, be consistent. It’s not right to pick and choose between who’s your buddy and who isn’t.

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