Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL Saturday, may never play in Canada, but he's having a substantial impact on the CFL regardless. Former Montreal receiver Arland Bruce III was cut by the Alouettes after making crude homophobic comments about Sam on Instagram in February (which also drew a fine from the league), and Calgary receiver Maurice Price is likely to face discipline of his own after he tweeted anti-Sam comments Monday. Here's what he said (via CBC Calgary's Devin Heroux):
Price has since backtracked, deleting the tweets in question and sending this follow-up (which he then also deleted):
Despite Price deleting the tweets in question, it would seem likely he'll receive future punishment of some sort. The CFL fined and denounced Bruce and Bryant Turner for their comments about Sam while also making a strong statement in support of accepting players of any sexual orientation, so it seems probable they'll do the same in this case and at least fine Price. Price's team could get involved, too. In fact, the Stampeders already released a Twitter statement on the matter Monday evening:
As Scott Mitchell has noted the Stampeders are owned by the Calgary Flames. Flames' president Brian Burke has been one of the most visible advocates across sports for acceptance of gay players, and his son Patrick is the president of the You Can Play Team, an organization dedicated to ending homophobia in sports (and one the CFL has been working with). Thus, there could be plenty of in-house rationale for the Stampeders to come down hard on Price, and that's before you consider that they'll probably face external pressure to cut ties with him too.
With all that said, though, this won't necessarily play out like the Bruce case. Yes, Bruce was cut shortly after his comments, and they were probably the reason why the Alouettes axed him. He hasn't been signed by another CFL team either, so his career north of the border is probably over. Bruce was 36, though, and while he was still reasonably effective in 2013 (64 catches for 851 yards), he was also relatively easy to replace, and he'll probably be replaced with a younger, higher-upside player who will also likely be cheaper. Sure, Price is an import receiver too, but that's where the similarities stop; he's only 28, and although he had less yards than Bruce last year (788 on 57 catches), he battled leg injuries throughout the season. Calgary signed him to an extension this offseason, and he seems likely to be a big part of their receiving corps going forward. It's certainly possible that the Stampeders could cut Price loose, especially if massive public pressure comes to bear on them, but a fine and/or short suspension seems much more likely, similar to what the Miami Dolphins did this weekend after safety Don Jones tweeted his displeasure with Sam.
Regardless of what precise discipline happens to Price, the CFL shouldn't be seen as a league that endorses or condones homophobia. It's notable that Price's former Calgary teammate Eric Fraser (who's now with the Ottawa Redblacks thanks to the expansion draft) went after Price hard, calling him an idiot and saying that his opinions don't reflect the rest of the league. That would seem very likely. For example, another Stampeder, Jon Cornish, has frequently spoken publicly about how his mother is married to a woman and how he supports her fully; that never drew much pushback from other players. Neither did B.C.'s Marco Iannuzzi moderating a You Can Play forum, or then-Argos Mike Bradwell and Joe Eppele taking a strong stand against homophobia before the 2012 Grey Cup, or the Lions' organizational involvement in last year's Vancouver Pride Parade.
That's not to say that the CFL is perfect or unilaterally accepting. In fact, Price's comments suggest there's still a lot of work to do. The league and its players have also done a lot of good things on the acceptance front, though, and those shouldn't be overlooked in the wake of some stupid tweets from one player. We'll see exactly what happens to Price, but the bet here is that the league and his team are going to make it very clear that he stepped over the line and that comments of this sort won't be tolerated. The NFL showed this weekend that its teams are willing to at least draft an openly-gay player; the CFL should prove that sexual orientation doesn't matter to its teams either.