Toronto Star

Five Argos violated CFL protocols by attending a Raptors game, but might still play in Sunday’s East final

Orignally published on 2021-12-03 17:42:09 by www.thestar.com

A bizarre series of events left the door open for Argonauts starting quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and four teammates to play in Sunday’s East Division final despite violating the CFL’s COVID-19 policy.

The club sent Bethel-Thompson, Dexter McCoil, Charleston Hughes, Llevi Noel and Jeff Richards to Thursday night’s Raptors game even though league protocols prohibit players from attending other large sporting events. The quarterback even did an interview, played on the scoreboard at Scotiabank Arena, to drum up interest in the division final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BMO Field, with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup.

CFL protocols call for a four-day quarantine after any violation, which would force all five to miss Sunday’s contest. Instead, the league consulted medical experts and came up with a compromise: two days of self-isolation for all five, plus PCR tests Friday and Saturday and a rapid antigen test on game day.

If all of the results come back negative, they can still play.

“Hopefully that’s the case …” Argos coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “(We) understand we made a mistake and we’ll go from there.”

While the Argos have averaged 8,603 fans per home game this season, more than 20,000 are expected for the East final. The announced crowd for Thursday’s Raptors-Bucks game was 19,800.

It’s believed another team tipped the league off about the COVID violations, while Ticats receiver Brandon Banks tweeted Friday morning that the CFL had prevented him from attending an earlier Raptors game because of protocols, adding there was something “fishy” about the Argos attending.

The CFL front office — which had all teams and the players’ association sign off on COVID protocols before the season began about a month later than usual — was reportedly livid about the Argos situation, which the league learned about some time during the Raptors game. The compromise was thrashed out by Friday morning after consulting the league’s medical officers, Dr. Bob McCormack and Dr. Dhiren Naidu.

While Bethel-Thompson will almost certainly play in the East final, he is still paying a price: like the other four teammates, he did not practise Friday and is not allowed in any team facilities until he clears all protocols.

“This is an error on my part. This is a situation we should not have put him in,” Argos GM Mike Clemons told The FAN 590 Friday night.

Bethel-Thompson wore a mask and held his daughter during Thursday’s in-game interview at Scotiabank Arena, where proof of full vaccination is required before entry.

“It’s an honest mistake,” said Dinwiddie. “We make sure we follow all the protocols and rules, and promote the game and promote the league at the same time. Put fans in the seats and make it a good thing.”

The 33-year-old Bethel-Thompson has completed 66 per cent of his passes this season and is a central reason why the team finished atop the East at 9-5, earning the right to host the division final.

Dinwiddie had backup Antonio Pipkin taking snaps at practice Friday and said the team is prepared if Bethel-Thompson — 7-2 as a starter this season with 2,303 passing yards and 12 touchdowns — isn’t available.

“It’s a bit of distraction, but I think we’ve had distractions all year … all the protocols you have to follow and all the rules changes and things,” the coach said. “We do our best to make sure we follow them and do everything the league asks of us, but I think our guys are focused in on the game. Guys understand. We had a talk after practice, and they are dialed in.”

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Orignally published on 2021-12-03 17:42:09 by www.thestar.com

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