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Former Argos coach details Kelly’s alleged harassment in amended lawsuit


A former Toronto Argonauts strength and conditioning coach has amended her wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the Canadian Football League team and quarterback Chad Kelly, including specific allegations of bad behaviour by the league’s highest-paid player and reigning Most Outstanding Player.

“Chad is a high-profile athlete, won the Most Outstanding Player award of the CFL in 2023 and is a role model to Canadian Football fans,” the coach’s amended lawsuit says. “Given his important profile, Chad’s conduct deserves special reprimand from the court to send out a message that women must be treated with respect and Canadian courts will not tolerate behaviour similar to Chad’s.”

The coach, who worked for the Argos from 2018 until January 2024, filed the amended lawsuit on Apr. 2 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto, two months after her original claim was filed. TSN does not publish the names of alleged victims of abuse and harassment without their permission.

She is suing the 29-year-old Kelly for $50,000 for alleged violations of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Argos and Kelly jointly for $85,714, claiming wrongful dismissal. She is also seeking $10,000 worth of punitive damages.

The coach alleges that the Argos condoned Kelly’s harassment and a toxic work environment, and that the team breached the CFL violence against women policy by not submitting a critical incident report to the league’s head office.

The allegations against Kelly and the Argos have not been tested in court and neither Kelly nor the franchise have filed a response. The CFL has also said it is investigating.

"This amendment is merely a procedural matter, and while we will not be addressing the process through the media, we look forward to our statement of defence speaking for itself," Kelly’s agent, Chris Lambiris, said in a statement Wednesday.

“We do not believe the claims made against Mr. Kelly have any merit and are taking steps to defend the action,” added Nancy M. Shapiro, Kelly’s lawyer.

A Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment spokesperson declined to comment.

The former coach was hired by the Argos in May 2018 as assistant strength and conditioning coach, becoming the first woman to be hired in the role by the team. She was paid about $25,000 per year, plus benefits, and her responsibilities included supervising workouts, focusing on injury prevention, supporting rehabilitation, and analyzing performance data.

Kelly, who has also appeared on TSN as a college football analyst, signed a three-year contract extension with the Argos in August for a reported $1.865 million, making him the top-paid player in the CFL.

A Buffalo native, he is the nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

The coach alleges in her lawsuit that Kelly repeatedly sought to initiate romantic connections throughout the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

The amended lawsuit included allegations about a so-called “Bills Incident” that details an alleged occurrence in October 2022. The former coach alleges that Kelly told her and others he could get free tickets to Bills games.

In her lawsuit, the former coach alleges that she told Kelly that if she went to the game she would travel separately, would bring a friend, and would go home right after the game.

“Days leading up to the NFL game, Chad was adamant about the group getting an Airbnb and staying for the night after the game,” the lawsuit says. “After [the coach told] him multiple times that she would be leaving right after the game to go back home, Chad continued to try to get [her] to stay over.”

The lawsuit says the coach then advised Argos general manager Michael “Pinball” Clemons about the plan to go to the game and Clemons “stated that he thought it was a great networking event for [the coach] to go to the NFL Bills game,” the lawsuit says.

The coach then allegedly told Kelly that Clemons had approved the trip.

"Chad got visibly aggravated and then proceeded to say, ‘Oh man, why would you tell Pinball? You shouldn’t have gone to Pinball. You shouldn’t have done that. Why the f--k would you go to Pinball?’” the lawsuit says. “[The coach] tried to tell Chad that she needed to protect her job and that getting clearance from management was the only way she was going to the game.”

Kelly then allegedly left and went to the quarterback meeting room.

“Shortly after, a co-worker told [the coach] that while in the quarterback meeting room, Chad was yelling and cussing [her] name. Then Chad revoked the free invitation to the Bills game and asked [her] to pay $500 (U.S.) for the tickets. [She] did not end up going to the game and did not pay the $500 (U.S.)”

The coach alleges that Kelly's harassment escalated in November 2023.

“Chad would plan movie or dinner dates, but [the coach] declined,” the lawsuit says. “On one occasion Chad told [her] that they would need only 30 minutes, [a] comment that took [her] aback. [She] would remind Chad that they both had partners, that his advances were unacceptable and unprofessional and that she was she was not interested.”

The lawsuit says that a member of the Argonauts informed the coach that on Nov. 5, 2023, while on the team bus, Kelly publicly accused her of engaging in romantic relations with another team member.

The coach says she then privately confronted Kelly on Nov. 6, 2023.

“Instead of addressing the concerns, Chad reacted with aggression, screaming, cursing, and waving his hands at [her],” the lawsuit says, adding that she asked Kelly not to contact her unless it was work-related.

An hour after their conversation, the coach ate breakfast with a group of at least eight others, including her supervisor, Usama Mujtaba, the lawsuit says, adding that when Kelly saw her, he yelled derogatory words across the room at her and stated he couldn't wait until she was fired.

The coach wrote in her lawsuit that she then informed Mujtaba and Argos assistant general manager John Murphy about what had happened.

“Murphy responded by stating that [she] should not have spoken to [Kelly] and that she has now ‘opened a can of worms that didn’t need to be opened,’” the lawsuit says.

She said that while she was supposed to lead a team yoga class that afternoon, she was told that someone else would take over since Kelly would be attending. After she went to the weight room, Mujtaba approached her and told her to go home in case Kelly showed up, the lawsuit says.

“On Nov. 10, 2023, [the coach] learned that Chad had made a threatening remark, suggesting she was fortunate he hadn't physically harmed her,” the lawsuit says.

“Despite [her] supervisor witnessing parts of the incident and [the coach] reporting the ongoing harassment, the Argonauts failed to take any action to address the situation, leaving [her] in a distressing and unsupported position within the team.”

The coach said she was informed that her contract would not be renewed on Jan. 29.