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Eskimos cornerback apologizes following homophobic slur made to Calgary player

WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton Eskimo is apologizing for a homophobic slur he said to a Calgary player during Saturday’s Labour Day rematch. Quinn Phillips reports.

EDMONTON — Edmonton Eskimos cornerback Pat Watkins is apologizing for an offensive comment he made to a Calgary player during Saturday’s Battle of Alberta.

Cameras were rolling when Watkins made a homophobic slur to Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell following a touchdown during the third quarter. Microphones were able to pick up the comment.

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The 31-year-old Florida native says he regrets what he said, adding the comment was made in the heat of the moment.

“It’s a gladiator sport and that’s our arena. It’s just one of those things where what I said happened to get caught on camera. I’m sure people have said plenty of other things, but that doesn’t make any reason for me to make the comment that I made,’ Watkins said Monday.

“I really honestly didn’t intend to offend anybody.”

Edmonton Eskimos General Manager Ed Hervey says he’s had a long conversation with Watkins, and says his comment does not reflect the values of the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club.

“What he said was a bad choice of words, but I can tell that if you listen throughout the game there are a whole lot of bad words that are said out there. It’s unfortunate for him and our organization that those words were selected and they were heard,” said Hervey.

“We don’t want this kind of language chosen by our players or by any player.”

This summer, the Canadian Football League announced a partnership with You Can Play, an organization dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly is the team’s You Can Play ambassador. He says everyone makes mistakes and this is one Watkins has to deal with.

“A lot of the time guys are totally different people on the field; they are running around doing crazy stuff, running into people, hitting people. But you do have to still be able to put those things in check and eliminate those types of words from your vocabulary because they don’t belong in anyone’s vocabulary.

“You do play with a lot of emotion on the field, that’s what makes a lot of these players so great, but there is a line that you have to draw and you have to be able to reign it in.”

Dr. Kristopher Wells, with the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, says even though the comment was said in the heat of the moment, players need to be responsible for the kinds of environments they’re creating.

“Football players, they’re role models and so using this kind of language, what message does that say to young people in our community or particularly young people in our schools who are still hearing those kind of casual homophobia phrases…. every day in their classrooms often without any kind of intervention.”

Wells is very pleased to see such a quick apology from Watkins and the team, saying it shows recognition that this isn’t acceptable behaviour.

The Canadian Football League says its standards for objectionable conduct calls for on-field officials to flag players who direct homophobic slurs against an opponent, official or fan.

This year, the NFL has legislated that abusive language on-field, including homophobic and racial slurs, will result in a 15-yard penalty.

“I don’ think that homophobic slurs are a rampant problem on the field in terms of their occurrence, but again, one is obviously too many and we need to figure out a way to get guys educated about that type of stuff,” said Reilly.

The CFL says it is reviewing Watkins’ comment. At this time it’s not known if he will be disciplined.

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