Blue Bombers drop receiver Jalen Saunders after sexual assault allegation

·2 min read
Jalen Saunders came out of retirement to sign a two-year contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last month, but was released this week after allegations surfaced about a sexual assault. (Winnipeg Blue Bombers - image credit)
Jalen Saunders came out of retirement to sign a two-year contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last month, but was released this week after allegations surfaced about a sexual assault. (Winnipeg Blue Bombers - image credit)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have released receiver Jalen Saunders due to an allegation of sexual assault.

A spokesperson for the CFL football club said the team was made aware, via social media, of the allegation on Tuesday. The following day, the Bombers issued a one-line news release saying the team had released the 29-year-old CFL veteran.

On Friday, Darren Cameron, the Bombers' senior director of public and player relations, confirmed the reason for Saunders' release to CBC News.

"Our club advised the individual who came forward to notify the Winnipeg police. At the same time, we began our internal review of the off-field incident, following the CFL policy of violence against women," he said in an email.

"After our internal review, this player was immediately released from the roster by our organization. The Winnipeg Football Club takes violence against women and sexual assault seriously, and thanks the individuals for coming forward on this."

No other details about the allegation, or the person who came forward, were included in the statement.

CBC News has reached out to Saunders for comment.

Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Jay Murray said members of the media have asked about the allegation against Saunders, but he cannot comment for privacy reasons.

However, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that it provided police with an incident-report number provided by the complainant, and Murray confirmed it has to do with a sexual assault.

"We also disclosed the Winnipeg Police Service has not charged anyone by the name of Jalen Saunders at this time," he wrote in an email to CBC News.

The off-season signing of 29-year-old Saunders last month was lauded as a key move for a Bomber offence that has lost all-star receivers Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams.

The club announced in mid-April that it had signed Saunders, a former Hamilton Tiger-Cats leading receiver, to a two-year contract.

In 25 games over two seasons with Hamilton (2017-18), he made 121 catches for 1,909 yards and six touchdowns. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2018 and was cut by the Tiger-Cats just before training camp for the 2019 season.

Saunders signed with Ottawa in 2020, but that season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He re-signed with the team in 2021 but was involved in a car accident in May and sat out the entire season.

He announced his retirement from football on June 15, 2021, but re-emerged to sign with the Bombers.

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