CFL suspends recently retired Lemon indefinitely for betting on league games

TORONTO — The CFL indefinitely suspended veteran defensive lineman Shawn Lemon on Wednesday for betting on league games, including one the league says he played in.

The CFL said an investigation showed Lemon bet on games in 2021 while with the Calgary Stampeders.

The league added there was no evidence to indicate games were impacted by his wagering. It also said no Calgary coaches, teammates or team personnel were aware of Lemon's actions.

Lemon, a three-time Grey Cup champion, retired April 10 to cap a career in Canada that spanned 13 seasons. His decision to retire came roughly four months after he signed a one-year extension with Montreal.

"The integrity of our game is of the utmost importance," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement. "Any other factors _ career performance, actions in the community, timing, frequency or size of wagers _ hold no weight when the legitimacy of the CFL can be called into question.

"It is our responsibility as a league to investigate and address such abnormalities, and it is our collective duty, along with our teams and players, to ensure that sports wagering in no way impacts the quality nor standing of the CFL. We will continue to work with our authorized gaming operators, partners and stakeholders to hold our game to the highest standard."

Lemon, 35, helped Montreal defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 in last year's Grey Cup. The Alouettes went 12-4, including the playoffs, after signing Lemon, who had 26 tackles, nine sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 13 regular-season games.

Lemon, of Charleston, S.C., also earned his 100th CFL sack last season.

"The Alouettes were recently made aware of the CFL's investigation regarding an issue involving Shawn Lemon that took place in 2021," the Montreal franchise said in a statement. "Additional information was made available to the club upon the completion of the league's investigation in recent days.

"The team fully supports the CFL's rules on gambling. As a result of this investigation and the league's ruling, we have suspended Shawn Lemon indefinitely. We will have no further comment."

The CFL's release did not say where the bets were placed. Single-game betting became legal in Canada in 2021.

Lemon is the third Canadian-based athlete to be suspended or banned by a major sports league since the legalization. Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto was suspended for the first half of the 2023-24 season by the NHL for an undisclosed gambling infraction. Former Toronto Raptors centre Jontay Porter was banned by the NBA earlier this month after a league investigation found he disclosed confidential information to sports bettors, limited his participation in one or more games for betting purposes and bet on NBA games.

Lemon began his pro career with Winnipeg as a practice-roster player in 2011 and spent time with every CFL team except Hamilton. He also won Grey Cups with Calgary (2014) and Toronto (2017) while spending time with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers as well as two Arena Football League teams and another in the Indoor Football League.

"The Calgary Stampeder Football Club is surprised and disappointed by the revelations of the Canadian Football League’s investigation into Shawn Lemon’s sports wagering activities," the Stampeders stated. "The Stampeders unequivocally support the CFL’s policy on gambling and condemn the actions for which the player in question has been sanctioned.

"The Stampeders echo CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s comments about the utmost importance of preserving the integrity of the sport and the league. The Calgary Stampeders will have no further comment on the matter."

The six-foot-two, 242-pound Lemon registered 237 tackles and 101 sacks in 237 career regular-season games. He also had three interceptions, forced 30 fumbles and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Lemon was a CFL all-star in 2022 when he had 14 sacks with Calgary, tying his career-best recorded in 2016 over 16 contests with Toronto. He was named the West Division's top defensive player that season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press