Riders defensive lineman Marino apologizes for hit on Ottawa QB Masoli

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HALIFAX — Defensive lineman Garrett Marino and the Saskatchewan Roughriders both apologized Wednesday for Marino's low hit on Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli last week, with Marino adding he won't appeal the four-game suspension he received for the controversial incident.

Marino was ejected in the fourth quarter of Saskatchewan's 28-13 home win Friday night after diving into Masoli's legs as he threw a pass. With Masoli on the ground, Marino flexed his muscles and gestured to the Mosaic Stadium crowd in celebration as he left the field following the hit.

That prompted some Redblacks players to go to Saskatchewan's sideline to confront Marino. Even after being ejected, Marino lifted his helmet to the crowd and pounded his chest as he headed to the locker room.

Masoli was carted off the field and will require surgery. He's expected to be out 10 to 12 weeks.

Marino, in his second season with Saskatchewan, has a previous ejection and two fines in 12 career CFL games.

On Monday, the CFL slapped Marino with three different suspensions totalling four games, the longest in CFL history for on-field behaviour. Marino was banned two games for the hit on Masoli, another for a verbal comment about the quarterback's heritage and one game for an illegal tackle on a previous play in the game.

“I want to apologize for my actions that day, as I understand that they have no place in the game of football,” Marino said in a statement issued on Twitter by the Roughriders. "I also apologize to Jeremiah Masoli of the Ottawa Redblacks, as I did not intend to injure him.

"I have tried over the past few days to connect with him directly and will continue to do so."

The Riders released both statements before their arrival here Wednesday night. Saskatchewan will face the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL's 2022 Touchdown Atlantic contest Saturday afternoon at Wolfville, N.S.

Marino added he wouldn't appeal the suspension and has instructed the CFL Players’ Association to respect his wishes.

On Tuesday, Masoli took to social media to speak about the hit. The veteran quarterback was very critical about Marino's suspension for his comments about Masoli's heritage.

The 33-year-old Masoli was born in San Francisco to parents of Samoan descent.

"The worst of it is the vile and disrespectful type of behaviour and racial insults that were made toward me more than once," Masoli tweeted. "In the CFL we say our diversity is our strength, so there should be no place for the racial hate.

"It's sad that the hate, racist attitudes and racial insults are going to be punished with a slap on the wrist. One game for racist insults is simply not enough in my opinion and hopefully we can use this to promote growth and change for the better. We need to protect the integrity of the game."

Marino's apology Wednesday extended to those comments.

"Regarding the comments I made during the game, I regret that I said them, as I now understand their consequences," he said. "This was not my intent when speaking on the field, nor is it ever my intent in my day-to-day life.

“I know I play the game with an edge, and during the game I made an insensitive and culturally stereotypical remark. I now understand this was hurtful to my peers and I hope I can be forgiven for that misunderstanding.”

Marino concluded the statement by saying he'd no longer talk about the incident and will work on bettering himself "as I serve this discipline and prepare to rejoin my teammates on the field."

The Riders also issued their own separate apology on social media.

"The Saskatchewan Roughriders extend its sincerest apologies to quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and have expressed those apologies to several members of the Ottawa Redblacks," the club tweeted. "We wish him a smooth and speedy recovery.

"The comments and actions of Garrett Marino on July 8 do not represent who we are as an organization or the work we do in the Saskatchewan community."

The Riders also said they'll make a donation to the Redblacks Mentorship Program in Masoli's name. The initiative connects at-risk youth who have experienced racism and discrimination with mentors and provides encouragement, support, guidance and strategies to help them reach their fullest potential.

On Wednesday night, the CFL and CFL Players' Association issued a joint statement regarding racism.

"The CFL and the CFLPA are jointly committed to a policy of zero tolerance of any form of racism or racial discrimination and signified their commitment in writing during the last round of collective bargaining," the statement read. "We have agreed to strengthen our commitment with urgency by agreeing to further define and agree on all issues arising from that joint commitment so both the CFL and CFLPA - and through them the entire professional Canadian football community - will have clarity and certainty moving forward."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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