Roughriders support Marino over suspension; injured Redblacks player decries ‘vile’ comments

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are supporting a defensive lineman who has been been suspended for four games by the Canadian Football League, the longest penalty ever dished out for in-game behaviour by the league.

The suspension was issued last Friday after the Roughriders’ 28-13 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks. 

Garrett Marino received a two-game suspension for a dangerous and reckless low hit on Ottawa quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, which resulted in serious injury and Marino’s ejection from the game, and for Marino’s subsequent celebration of the hit.

He received a one-game suspension for verbal comments made about Masoli’s heritage during the game, which violates the CFL’s Code of Conduct. And he received another one-game suspension for his illegal and reckless tackle of an Ottawa offensive lineman on a previous play.

Previous play cited

The league also cited Marino’s discipline record after 12 CFL games, which includes a previous ejection and two fines for his manner of play.

“I think a message had to be sent, I really do. And I think he got it loud and clear,” Roughriders coach Craig Dickenson said on Tuesday. 

“I think it’s just sad, sad deal for everybody. You know, there’s no winners in this. I understand the league had to come down hard and send a message, and they did. But we feel bad. We feel bad for everybody involved, including Jeremiah and including our guy.”

Along with the suspensions, Marino received a stern message from commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

“This behaviour has no place in our league,” Ambrosie said in a written statement on Monday. “This discipline is intended to send a strong message that it will not be tolerated.”

The league also cited Marino’s discipline record after 12 CFL games, which includes a previous ejection and two fines for his manner of play.

Saskatchewan Roughriders coach Craig Dickenson says Marino knows his celebratory reaction after Masoli went down was a big mistake. (Glenn Reid/CBC News)

Marino ‘just made a mistake’

Dickenson called the suspension “severe.”

“It’s unprecedented. I think for what he did on the field, it’s a little harsh.”

But Dickenson said Marino knows that his celebratory reaction after Masoli went down was a big mistake. He said the team does not condone that behaviour and does not want to encourage it. 

As for the comments Marino made toward Masoli, Dickenson does not think they came from a racist place. 

“I don’t think Garrett’s a racist. I know Garrett personally. I know how much he’s grown in the last year. You know, we’re not gonna turn our backs on a guy that has shown that much growth in a short amount last year,” he said.

“I’m telling you, he was rough on the edges last year. He still is. But it’s been an a transformation in terms of his reacting to what others do and say on the field and also in the locker room.”

Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo also said he’s standing by his teammate. 

“We just want to support Garrett, obviously, through this difficult time. It’s tough,” Fajardo said. 

However, he added, there’s no excuse for Marino’s behaviour. 

“[It’s] the theatrics after the play, which we were all disappointed in,” Fajardo said. “We see a guy on the ground wincing in pain and the last thing you want to do is celebrate, so that was very disappointing to see that.”

“He’s got much better character, much better morale than that. He just made a mistake. And emotions run high during a game, and sometimes you’re not all there.”

Fajardo says Marino is feeling terrible about the situation.

“After the fact, he told me he didn’t know that Masoli was down that bad, so that’s where I think the emotions kind of took over.”

Fajardo says he is praying for Masoli’s recovery. 

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli works out under the watchful eye of Ottawa Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice during the team’s training camp in May. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Masoli speaks out 

On Tuesday evening, Masoli sent out a tweet to the CFL about the incident and its fallout.

He said the “excuses” given by the head coach were poor and uninformed. He said he has received no apology from Marino, Dickenson or any executive from Saskatchewan. 

“After playing 12 games and already with a previous ejection and two fines before this incident, it is clear Garrett Marino cannot control himself,” Masoli tweeted. “It’s an unacceptable pattern of behaviour on top of the embarrassing way he celebrated as I was down shows how proud he is of his dirty ways.”

Masoli said the worst part was the “vile and disrespectful” type of behaviour and racial insults Marino directed at him more than once. 

“It’s sad that the hate and racist attitudes and racial insults are going to be punished with a slap on the wrist,” he tweeted.

Masoli said he is preparing for surgery and looking forward to the challenge of rehab and recovery. 

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