While there's plenty to look ahead to on the field ahead of the CFL's East and West Division Finals Sunday, at least three of the four remaining teams have players who have faced ugly off-field accusations of domestic violence. This discussion is springing up thanks to the New York Times' piece this week on the NFL's handling of domestic violence cases, which featured detailed allegations against the Eskimos' Robert Sands and the Stampeders' Brandon Underwood, but they're not the only players who could be featured in such a story. The Montreal Alouettes also have at least two players who have faced domestic violence allegations in the past, Chad Johnson and Chris Rainey. This may not be an exhaustive list, as many of these cases aren't extensively reported. Here's a breakdown of each case and where it stands. See this piece for a discussion of the CFL's progress on developing a domestic violence policy, and this one for why these guys were allowed in while Ray Rice wasn't.
Chad Johnson: The CFL's most prominent offseason acquisition has his own past with domestic violence, which led to his departure from the NFL. Johnson, a wide receiver, was released by the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2012 following an arrest for domestic battery of his then-wife, Evelyn Lozada after he allegedly head-butted her after an argument. He pled no contest to one charge of misdemeanor domestic battery in 2013, avoided jail time thanks to a plea deal and was put on probation, violated that probation and then was sentenced to 30 days in jail (following him slapping his male attorney on the butt in court during the arrangement of a deal that would have seen him avoid jail again). He wound up only spending seven days in jail and being released after apologizing to the judge. Johnson signed with Montreal this April. He's currently on the Alouettes' one-game injured list and didn't play in their win over B.C. Sunday.
Chris Rainey: Rainey, a running back, overcame a tough upbringing (he was born in prison, his father's been in prison for most of his life, and he was raised by a grandmother with alcohol issues), to become a college star at the University of Florida, but was charged with aggravated stalking (a felony) in 2010 for allegedly sending a former girlfriend a threatening text message ("Time to die, b*tch.") That charge was eventually reduced to a misdemeanour, which saw him ordered to perform community service and take anger management classes. In December 2012, Rainey was cited for defiant trespass for entering a casino after putting himself on a self-exclusion list. In January 2013 while with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, he was arrested and charged with simple battery for pulling his girlfriend out of a vehicle, slapping her, chasing her and grabbing her bag. The Steelers cut him later that day. The Indianapolis Colts signed him that November, and he played three games before being placed on injured reserve. The team then released him this June following a "violation of team rules," reportedly involving a fire extinguisher prank.
Rainey was signed to the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad on September 9, but was cut by them on Sept. 18 amidst a furor around domestic violence and the NFL that also saw them put Jonathan Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list following fresh aggravated assault charges. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said cutting Rainey was a pure football move, but some were skeptical. Rainey signed with Montreal's practice squad on Sept. 28, but has since worked his way up to the active roster, and he played Sunday, notching a 64-yard touchdown run along the way. He may have the biggest role of any of these guys in the rest of the playoffs.
Robert Sands: As outlined in the NYT piece and our discussion of it, Sands, a defensive back, was arrested on domestic violence charges in January 2013 while with the Cincinnati Bengals (but had faced accusations before that), was released by the team and was suspended for two games by the NFL. His case has been expunged; he said the charges were dismissed in exchange for him agreeing to undergo counselling. He's still suspended by the NFL and hasn't been signed by a team there since his arrest. He signed with the Eskimos on June 1 this year and has featured occasionally as a special-teams player, but is currently on the six-game injured list.
Brandon Underwood: Also discussed in the NYT piece and our analysis of it, Underwood, a defensive back, was arrested following a domestic violence incident in June 2011 while with the Green Bay Packers. He was cut by the Packers soon afterwards. He eventually pled no contest to disorderly conduct and paid $767.50 in court costs. He was suspended by the NFL for two regular-season games, but although he signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2012 and the Dallas Cowboys in 2013, both released him before the season. He signed with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts on January 9 of this year, was oddly cut by them in August after not showing up for two practices, and was signed to Calgary's practice roster on October 13. He's still on the Stampeders' practice roster.
See also our interviews with CFL VP Matt Maychak about the differences in the Rice case and about the league's efforts to develop a domestic violence policy.