Khalif Mitchell is in hot water again for his actions on Twitter. The Montreal Alouettes' defensive tackle, who was suspended by B.C. and fined by the league in 2012 for racist tweets, earned himself another fine from the CFL Thursday for his Twitter conduct. After Jewish organization B'nai Brith issued a release condemning some of Mitchell's tweets that appeared to endorse a Holocaust denial documentary and saying he was anti-Semitic (Mitchell denies that claim), the CFL stepped in with an undisclosed fine for Mitchell, and the Alouettes also levied a separate fine against him. This is far from the first Twitter controversy for Mitchell, the Alouettes or the CFL, but it does illustrate some of the problematic waters the league sometimes has to wade into. It also is one case in point, not something that should be used overall against the CFL.
Some may see this as an example that the CFL is too permissive when it comes to social media, as this is far from the first questionable situation we've seen there. In addition to Mitchell's previous comments, we have the homophobic 2014 comments against gay NFL prospect Michael Sam from then-Montreal receiver Arland Bruce III (who was cut shortly thereafter) and then-Calgary receiver Maurice Price (who's now in Ottawa). However, when considered in the grand scheme of sports (every league has individuals who make problematic comments, and there are plenty of non-sports figures who do that as well) and the grand scheme of the CFL (for all those players who create controversy, there are many more who do great things on social sites like Twitter), this isn't necessarily that big of a deal.
It would be going way too far to assume that Mitchell's opinions are representative of CFL players; in fact, this may be the first case of alleged anti-Semitism seen in the CFL. By and large, the league certainly hasn't been known for that. Thus, perhaps the key question here isn't anything about the overall league, but rather is if Mitchell's desire to express himself in ways that are problematic to a lot of people should affect his CFL status. We saw with Bruce that his views were troubling enough that the team didn't think he was worth keeping around, and that may be the case with Mitchell as well, as this isn't the first time he's posted material that can be viewed as anti-Semitic. However, he's a very good player; he's only 30, he's had several NFL stints, and he's a two-time CFL all-star. Will keeping him around prove worthwhile for Montreal?
The actions taken in the wake of Mitchell's comments seem generally appropriate. The CFL is smart; they don't crack down on players too much, leading to lots of great Twitter content, but they do step in when something crosses the line, as Mitchell's comments did. Fines for him from both the team and the league seem reasonable; that sends the message that the CFL won't tolerate public anti-Semitic comments. Mitchell isn't scheduled to miss any games yet, so some may make the argument that he's getting off easy. Montreal's patience is limited though, as they showed with Bruce. This may be a message to Mitchell; shape up, or else you won't have a CFL job much longer. We'll see if it's effective.