The CFL and the Montreal Alouettes have both fined defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell an undisclosed amount for tweets violating the league’s social media policy.
“There is absolutely no place in our league for commentary used to divide or disparage others along the lines of sex, race, religion or sexual orientation,” CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said in a statement.
“While we acknowledge that players have a right to hold and express their own opinions, in no circumstance do we condone activity or comments that are derogatory or inappropriate, putting the league’s reputation in question — and we feel Mr. Mitchell’s recent posts on social media have violated these principles.”
The league does not disclose the amount of fines.
This was the second time in his CFL career that Mitchell has been fined for making insensitive remarks on social media. The league says that after a first violation, “subsequent offences are subject to higher fines and possible suspension.”
The Alouettes responded as well by denouncing Mitchell’s “regrettable postings.”
In addition to the league fine, the Alouettes have fined Mitchell the maximum amount allowable under CFL rules for violating the team’s social media policy.
“His postings are disappointing and in no way reflect the opinions and values of the Montreal Alouettes,” Alouettes president and CEO Mark Weightman said in a statement. “His postings were completely unacceptable and the Alouettes apologize to anyone who was offended by them.”
The CFL encourages players to use social media to be accessible to fans, but postings are treated as public and subject to the same discipline if a player or employee made similar comments through traditional media.
The CFL and the Alouettes began looking into Mitchell’s social media conduct after B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish human rights advocacy group, alerted Orridge and Montreal general manager Jim Popp to “hateful content” on his Twitter account.
Mitchell recently tweeted a link to a 2015 YouTube video titled “The greatest lie ever told – The Holocaust,” which called the murder of 6 million Jews an “alleged” act.
Mitchell has also posted or retweeted comments and video on the terrorist group ISIS, police behaviour, the U.S. military and photos with assault rifles.
The Star tried to contact Mitchell , but he declined an interview.
“I won’t have Private Talks,” Mitchell tweeted. “I’m in the Open. And Enjoy a Great Healthy Conversation or Debate.”
The Jewish human rights advocacy group says it received a complaint a few weeks ago about “bizarre postings and outlandish conspiracy theories” on Mitchell’s account.
Sam Eskenasi, spokesman for the group, said he alerted the CFL and the Alouettes to the situation Tuesday.
The group said it didn’t get a response, so CEO Michael Mostyn decided to go public with a news release Wednesday.
“As an all-star and role model for Canadian youth, Mr. Mitchell should not be sending out divisive and hateful tweets under the banner of the Montreal Alouettes organization,” Mostyn said in the release.
In 2012, the CFL fined Mitchell after he used derogatory terms against people of Chinese descent.
“It is surprising that given his past misbehaviour on Twitter these public postings have gone unnoticed by the Alouettes,” Mostyn said. “While understanding that we cannot judge the stream of consciousness of individuals who share offbeat Internet postings, these repugnant tweets are shameful not just to Mr. Mitchell, but the entire Alouettes organization which he represents by displaying its logo and proudly donning its jersey on his Twitter account.”
Molstyn said he understands that people are free to disagree with the actions of police or government, but directing hate towards men and women in uniform coupled with re-postings of Holocaust denial videos “have crossed the line.”
Mitchell, who has more than 2,100 followers, describes himself on Twitter as: “Self Taught Pianist & Believer in TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE. Thoughts Are My Own!”
Over his career he has been called a disruptive force in the dressing room.
Mitchell spent the first three seasons of his career with the B.C. Lions, and was named a CFL all-star in 2011. In 2013, he was traded to the Argonauts, but he initially refused to report. The Argos released him after the season.
In 2014, the Lions welcomed Mitchell back, but he played infrequently.
When Popp signed him this year to play with the Alouettes, the GM told the Montreal Gazette that he believed Mitchell had straightened out his earlier behaviour.
“It bothers me if it continues,” Popp said.
In an interview with the Gazette in February, Mitchell explained that he has matured as a person.
“I’m not who I was, I’m who I am. I’m a man now,” he said. “When I was done doing those things (I was) a child,” said the native of Virginia Beach, Va.