Art Briles was hired by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League today. I have been preparing for this day to come. Knowing the “football machine,” I didn’t think he would be blackballed in the same way that Kaepernick has been by the NFL ― and yes, that’s an intentional jab. I expected someone to hire Briles and I expected to be outraged along with most of the nation. What I didn’t expect is the shift in conversation around college coaching vs. professional coaching and America vs. Canada. Suddenly, I’m reading comments like “I have zero issue if a professional team wants to hire Art Briles”; “He just doesn’t belong on a college campus”; and “The Canadian league ― at least he’s not in the U.S. anymore.”
Here’s why this discussion is so upsetting to me. Yes, Art Briles is not in charge of impressionable young college men. He’s now in charge of adult men with jobs in the CFL. So, the threat of him influencing their minds in a negative way may be less, but it’s still there. There has been nothing to prove to me that Briles has changed his personal beliefs or attitudes that contributed to the mess at Baylor and he is still in a position of power and influence over these new players. Not to mention, and I think we can all agree, violence doesn’t just automatically become a non-issue in professional sports. How many stories about violence in the NFL riddle our social media timelines every day?
Let’s also not forget the influence Art Briles had on his coaching staff at Baylor ― grown men who should have known better. Does anyone really think that what happened on that football team had nothing to do with his coaching staff? Briles had help. He didn’t act alone and now his genius football brain along with his dangerous attitudes and beliefs are going to be influencing a new coaching staff of well-intentioned men.
Notice, I used the term “genius football brain.” I say this because he has a great offensive mind. He has proven he can turn a losing team into a winning one, but at what cost? Best case scenario, the Tiger-Cats start winning, but then what? Will greed, fame, and the addictive feeling of winning kick in so hard that they forget their moral compass? We saw it happen at Baylor. And once Briles is touted as the hero who turned around another losing team, won’t it only be a matter of time before he is back in a head coaching position? Maybe even at a college? It’s easy to see where this road goes.
And can we just talk about the survivors for a second? Briles supported, participated in, and helped cultivate an environment that allowed women to be raped. How is his influence any different at the professional level? How is his influence any different in Canada? All women matter. A woman’s worth should not be determined by her age and geographical location. Art Briles dismissed, minimized, and ignored violence against women at Baylor University in America and he can do it in Canada at the CFL.
Art Briles should not be coaching. He lost that privilege. We cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized to this issue. Survivors will struggle with their trauma for the rest of their lives. Art Briles does not deserve a second chance in football. His second chance is in the pursuit of redemption and becoming a better person. Rape survivors do not have the luxury of ever returning to “the life they once knew,” and neither should Art Briles.
The hiring of Art Briles by the CFL sends a strong message that they do not value the safety of women and that winning is more important than human life.
The hiring of Art Briles by ANY football organization will send the exact same message – it doesn’t matter if it’s a high school team, a college team, a pro team, or if it’s in America or Canada or Pakistan. The message is still the same… and it’s the wrong.