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Kelly, agent undecided on appealing CFL's nine-game suspension


The agent for suspended Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly says he and his client are looking into the CFL’s appeal process but haven’t decided whether to oppose the at least nine-game suspension handed down to the player by the league on Tuesday for violating its policy on gender-based violence.

“We were surprised by the CFL’s disciplinary decision, and we’ll be looking into the appeal process,” wrote Chris Lambiris in a text. “We will continue to do more fact finding surrounding the decision before making a more in-depth statement.”

Should Kelly appeal the suspension, the league cannot prevent him from being with his team, including participating in games, until an arbitrator schedules a hearing and renders a decision. That process could take weeks.

The Argonauts could also choose to suspend Kelly while the appeal process plays out. The club has had no comment on the matter Tuesday.

Training camps open this week, and the Argonauts play their first regular-season game on June 9 at BMO Field. 

Kelly’s suspension is based on the findings in an 87-page independent report commissioned by the league after a former Argonauts assistant strength and conditioning coach brought a lawsuit in February, claiming sexual harassment by Kelly and wrongful dismissal by the football team.

According to the terms of his suspension, Kelly’s return to the field is dependent on undergoing confidential assessments by an independent expert and attending mandatory counselling sessions conducted by an expert in gender-based violence.

At the conclusion of that process, Kelly will be reassessed, with the league reserving the right to modify his discipline if it is unsatisfied with his commitment and progress.

“Players are the ambassadors of our great game,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a statement released Tuesday afternoon by the league. “They are expected to be leaders in the locker room and role models in the community. It was important that we performed our due diligence to properly review this matter from all points of view. That in-depth investigation found that Mr. Kelly unequivocally violated the CFL’s Gender-based Violence Policy.

“Mr. Kelly’s suspension is the direct result of his behaviour. The addition of mandatory counselling focuses on his need for self-reflection and understanding of his actions. He must take full advantage of this opportunity for personal betterment in order to return to the CFL.”

The 30-year-old Kelly is the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and is the CFL’s Reigning Most Outstanding Player. He came to the league as the Argos backup quarterback in 2022, following years of indiscretions that followed him from high school to the NFL, where he was the final pick of the 2017 draft.

It was widely reported at the time that Kelly’s draft stock fell in large part because of questions about his off-field character.

Kelly’s indiscretions before coming to the CFL included being dismissed from his Clemson University team in 2014 for conduct detrimental to the team and being released by the NFL’s Denver Broncos after pleading guilty to second-degree criminal trespassing for entering the wrong home while intoxicated, following a party at the home of teammate Von Miller.

In Canada, he appeared to be taking full advantage of the fresh start granted to him by the Argonauts.

Kelly first gained notoriety in the CFL by coming off the bench during that season’s Grey Cup game and rallying the Argonauts to a come-from-behind win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

He followed that up with an outstanding 2023 campaign that netted him only the MOP award, but also a new contract that made him the CFL’s highest-paid player.

The former Argos strength and conditioning coach has alleged a pattern of harassment by Kelly, beginning with unwanted romantic advances and escalating into instances of threatening language. She also alleges the Argos did not act when told of Kelly's behaviour.

Those allegations have not been proven in court.

The former coach filed an amended lawsuit on April 2 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. TSN does not publish the names of alleged victims of abuse and harassment without their permission. She is seeking $80,000 from Kelly and a total of $85,714 from the Argonauts.

Ambrosie announced on Feb. 28, seven days after the original lawsuit was filed, that an independent investigator had been hired to look into the allegations.

The Argonauts and Kelly each filed statements of defence last week related to the lawsuits. Kelly’s statement of defence states that he “denies that he ever made any romantic or sexual overtures at [the plaintiff] at any time.”

In the Argonauts statement of defence, the club insists that the complainant, who was not retained after the 2023 season, was on a fixed-term agreement and that it was under no obligation to continue her employment.

The team’s statement of defence also says that the football club has “no knowledge of any behaviour of Kelly that engaged the CFL’s policy on gender-based violence or was in breach of the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

The CFL statement released Tuesday did not absolve the team of responsibility in matters concerning Kelly, stating that “the facts surrounding the Toronto Argonauts’ conduct in this matter, as laid out by the investigators, will be reviewed with the club.”