Sports  McGill Athletics needs to wake up

A cycle of indifference, scandal, and hasty regret

This year did not start too well for the Redmen football team. Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota, a running back for the McGill Redmen, was arrested on charges of armed robbery, uttering threats, and domestic assault. He was promptly suspended from the team on September 24. This happened three months after it came to light that a player accused of sexual assault had been working at at a McGill youth sports camp. This recurring problem at McGill speaks to the fundamental problem: the institutional apathy of the administration.

This was not Guimont-Mota’s first time committing a crime. In fact, he was sentenced to ninety days in jail last year after pleading guilty to assaulting a man outside a bar in Quebec City in 2010. Instead of serving his prison sentence in a consecutive time frame, he served an intermittent sentence – the judge allowed him to serve once a week on Sundays for ninety weeks in order to avoid interfering with his football career.

One cannot help but wonder whether the judge would have been equally sympathetic had Guimont-Mota not been a star athlete with a ‘rising career.’ Interestingly enough, football coach Clint Uttley, who recently resigned, states that Guimont-Mota’s crime was known to his team. The football team, according to Uttley, is a place for rehabilitating people who have commited a crime. However, doing this without a visible institutional commitment to educating players to avoid repeat offenses only shields Guimont-Mota from accountability. Both his sentencing and McGill Athletics’ lack of subsequent action were meant to cause him the least amount of inconvenience possible. Rehabilitation is not a buzzword; it involves longstanding, tangible action.

Indeed, evidence seems to suggest that being an athlete does have some influence on how institutions react to past criminal acts. Another example of this is the three Redmen football players who were arrested and are under investigation for sexual assault. The players were never suspended from the team: it took McGill 16 months to be brought to the attention of the student body, and another six months for the students to finally quit the team. The issue here has nothing to do with retribution or rehabilitation.

As an educational institution that is mandated to provide a safe space for all its students, McGill is obliged to be aware of the violent actions of not only its athletes, but any of its students. Throwing its hands in the air and claiming ignorance is irresponsible.

This most recent case involving Guimont-Mota seems to suggest that McGill’s stubborn refusal to enact proactive measures to combat institutionalized rape culture and violence has not helped in making it a safer campus.

McGill has not learned from its history. In 2005, the football season was cancelled after it became known that the team was abusing new recruits, as was the case with one player who came forward saying he had been violated with a broomstick at the Molson stadium during a hazing ritual. Again we saw it in the Redmen case of 2013 – and now we see it in 2014. How many wake-up calls does McGill need before it realizes the toxicity of its passivity?

When SSMU VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan asked him about the institutionalization of consent training for athletes, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens said at the Senate meeting on September 17 that he would not be implementing this, as he did not want to target one group of students. However, making athlete-specific consent training out to be some sort of imposition or inquisition on athletes is simply an overstatement and ignores the gruesome history of sexual violence in the athletics department at McGill.

Speaking to The Daily in an interview, Stewart-Kanigan brought up the point that Frosh leaders and students staying at residences have, been “targeted” because these have been recognized as “high-risk areas.”

“So, why shouldn’t the same action be taken in an area that’s shown consistently to be an area of concern for these issues?” she asked. “The idea of targeting a specific area is not popular. [McGill is] not willing to recognize systemic issues within specific departments.”

In a separate email to The Daily, Stewart-Kanigan also reinforced the sentiment, saying that “McGill has brought other groups into the process of building safer spaces, so why not Athletics?”

In that same Senate meeting, Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Lydia White presented the Annual Report of the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination prohibited by law, which indicated that 67 per cent of the complaints did not proceed beyond the inquiry stage. White interpreted this number to mean that people might be choosing another avenue to pursue their case, and said that McGill has no way of knowing what happened in the end.

It is quite easy for McGill to claim ignorance and argue that it is hesitant to take preemptive action so as to maintain equity. When it does take action, it is no more than a half-hearted attempt to wash its hands of institutional flaw.

This is similar to what happened with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assault on his then-fiancée, now-wife Janay Rice, and how the National Football League (NFL) reacted inadequately to it? While Rice’s assault of Janay Rice was recorded on video, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed that he never had access to the tape. Rice was, nevertheless, suspended indefinitely from NFL. The main difference is that McGill suspended Guimont-Mota immediately after hearing about the charges. However, both institutions are currently refusing to acknowledge the systemic corruption. Resorting to direct action after the fact is a band -aid solution.

Regarding both Rice and Guimont-Mota, the general rhetoric is that of being a ‘good guy’. This only shows that the severity of their actions is not understood by their peers, which speaks to the institutional problem within sports.

This is what we require: proactivity. Preemptive measures. What is supported here is not a crusade against McGill Athletics, nor athletes in general. The problem is not that the system is actively encouraging athletes into committing violence or sexual assault, but that it stays passive and does nothing whatsoever.

It is McGill’s duty to know about these things. It should not be the duty of only student-run services to care about the safety and well-being of McGill students, because there is only so much that they can do. No, the problem here is institutional apathy that results in a lack of proactive solutions being put forward. McGill cannot get away scot-free.

The solution is not getting rid or banning people that have committed crimes. What we need is to uproot the entire system.

In an earlier version of this article, The Daily stated that the three Redmen players had been convicted. In fact, the three players were under investigation. The Daily regrets the error.