Jeffrey Orridge out as CFL commissioner after 2 years


Jeffrey Orridge and the Canadian Football League have agreed to part ways, effective June 30, the league said in a news release on Wednesday.

The former executive director of CBC Sports became the 13th commissioner in CFL history in March 2015.

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Before joining the CFL, Orridge negotiated the media rights to several Olympic Games for the CBC, but was also at the helm when the CBC lost control of its NHL rights to Rogers in 2014. He succeeded Mark Cohon, who served eight years as commissioner.

"It has been an honour to serve as CFL commissioner and help to prepare this historic league for the future by deepening our relationship with fans and sponsors, increasing its relevance with the next generation, and expanding our reach beyond Canada," Orridge said in a statement.

"While the Board and I have differing views on the future of the league, we both believe passionately in this game, its players, its partners and its fans. I wish the CFL great success in the future."

Orridge was born and raised in New York and has lived in Canada since 2007. He was the COO and head of global business development at non-profit organization Right To Play International prior to joining the CBC in 2011. He also spent time as a marketing executive with Reebok and as an executive with USA Basketball.

"Jeffrey played an important role in developing the league's strategic plan which has, in a short time, helped to elevate some key metrics that underpin the health of the league," said CFL chair Jim Lawson. "In his time with the CFL, Jeffrey worked tirelessly to promote player health and safety, the integrity of the League on and off the field, and the values of diversity and inclusion."

A request by CBC Sports to speak with a member of the CFL's  board of governors was declined.

"As of right now, everything we have to say on the matter is in the [news] release," CFL director of communications Paulo Senro said in a text message.

At his state of the league address last November, Orridge refused to admit a link between football and degenerative brain disease.

"Last I heard, it's still a subject of debate in the medical and scientific community," Orridge told reporters. "The league's position is that there is no conclusive evidence at this point. And as I said, we continue to work with them and monitor the progress that they're making in terms of getting a greater understanding of whether or not there is a linkage."

The CFL is facing a $200-million class action lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court in May 2016 by former players Korey Banks and Eric Allen.

In early March, former receiver Arland Bruce's concussion case against the CFL and its teams was heard by the B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. Bruce suffered a concussion in a game in 2012 while playing for B.C. that sidelined him seven weeks. He returned for a playoff game and played one more season for Montreal. In 2014, he filed suit against the CFL, alleging negligence and saying he suffered personality changes, paranoia, and delusions, among other issues, according to court documents.

Lawyers for the two sides presented their case to three justices at the Court of Appeal in March with the justices reserving their judgment. Appeal judgments usually take several months and often longer to be issued.

Orridge was the first black commissioner of a significant North American professional sports league, In February, the former USA Basketball and Right to Play executive received the African Canadian Achievement Award of Excellence for his accomplishments in the sports world.

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