Arland Bruce and Bryant Turner fined, denounced by CFL for homophobic comments about gay NFL prospect Michael Sam

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When Montreal receiver Arland Bruce III made remarkably crass and homophobic comments about gay NFL prospect Michael Sam Monday, it seemed likely a reaction was coming. That reaction has been swift and decisive, with the CFL issuing a remarkable statement Tuesday morning and fining both Bruce and Winnipeg DT Bryant Turner (who also made a homophobic comment about Sam). Here's what league commissioner Mark Cohon had to say:

"The comments made by these players are extremely disappointing and do not represent the CFL's views or the views of the vast majority of our players," said CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon. "The CFL is supportive of openly gay athletes in professional sports and we commend the courage shown by Michael Sam. During the off-season, we have been working with an organization that specializes in this subject and look forward to announcing a formal partnership with them in the near future."

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That organization is You Can Play, and B.C. Lions receiver Marco Iannuzzi has already worked with them, moderating a forum last March. In fact, the CFL and its players have generally been very progressive on LGBT issues; amongst other things, Jon Cornish has talked openly and supportively about his lesbian mother, while the Argonauts' Mike Bradwell and Joe Eppele took a stand against homophobia and said they'd happily support a gay teammate during Grey Cup week in 2012, and Iannuzzi and other members of the Lions participated in the Vancouver Pride Parade last summer. As You Can Play president Patrick Burke noted on Twitter Tuesday: the actions of Bruce and Turner aren't reflective of the whole CFL:

The Alouettes themselves have also strongly denounced Bruce (although they haven't cut him yet, contrary to one report that was spreading Tuesday):

The Montreal Alouettes unequivocally denounce the regrettable comments made by Arland Bruce III. The statements and feelings expressed by Bruce III are disappointing and do not reflect the opinions and values of the Montreal Alouettes Football Club.

"Our organization supports all types of diversity. Every individual is unique and free to make his or her own choices. We evaluate players, coaches and support staff based on their skill set and not by gender, colour, religion or sexual orientation. The Montreal Alouettes have a simple criteria to determine who can be a member of our organization. We seek individuals who will make a positive contribution to our team goals and to the Montreal community," said Alouettes General Manager and Head Coach Jim Popp.

It's good to see the league office and the Alouettes take quick action on this (the Bombers haven't weighed in, but a league fine alone is probably enough there, as Turner's comments, while still bad, weren't quite as offensive) and it's particularly great to hear that the league is working on a formal partnership with You Can Play; that's something that's much-needed. (Update: there's a You Can Play statement here.) The Bruce and Turner comments (and the number of other players who publicly "liked" Bruce's post) show there's still a long way to go (as do some of the vaguely homophobic comments we've seen in the past), though, and stronger league-wide education on acceptance might be a good starting point.

As per Bruce, there's a real debate to be had about if he should be cut for these comments. On one level, that may be harsh, especially considering that racist tweets have only been met with league fines and team suspensions in the past and plenty of dangerous on-field play hasn't been severely punished. The CFL has also offered second chances to people in even more substantial trouble in the past. Moreover, cutting Bruce might send him out of the league entirely, as other teams may be reluctant to pick him up after this big of a public misstep; signing him certainly wouldn't help any team's public image. He can still play, too, which is why Montreal signed him to a three-year deal last offseason.

On the other hand, though, Bruce's comments are a severe black eye for the Alouettes. Players have been cut for that before (although it's usually been in relation to criminal cases), and the Alouettes (or any other team) are under no obligation to keep Bruce around. In fact, they're under substantial public pressure to dump him. Here are some of the comments on Twitter encouraging them to do just that:

Bruce has acted out before, of course, ranging from name changes to ill-advised Michael Jackson tributes to giving Rob Ford a game ball, so this isn't the weirdest thing he's done. It might be the most damaging, though; nothing before this was really hateful. We'll see if the Alouettes leave it with the league-imposed fine, or if they go further with a team-imposed suspension or perhaps even a release. Bruce is certainly going to be punished for his comments; the question is just now how far that punishment will go.

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