Shawn Lemon takes field at Alouettes training camp despite sports gambling suspension

By The Canadian Press

Defensive lineman Shawn Lemon has appealed his sports-gambling suspension and is back with the Montreal Alouettes.

According to a league source, Lemon filed his appeal Monday night and was on the field practising Tuesday at the CFL team’s training camp. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the league nor CFL Players’ Association have divulged details of the appeal.

“The Canadian Football League Players’ Association (CFLPA) has filed a grievance on behalf of Shawn Lemon challenging the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) decision to suspend him indefinitely. Consequently, Shawn was allowed to join the Alouettes at training camp today,” said the CFLPA in a statement.

“The team continues to reiterate its support for the CFL’s regulations on gambling and will await the outcome of the CFL-led investigation. The Alouettes will not issue any further comments at this time regarding this situation.”

The CFL indefinitely suspended Lemon on April 24 for betting on league games, including one the league says he played in.

READ MORE: CFL suspends player indefinitely for betting on games

The league said an investigation showed Lemon bet on games in 2021 while with the Calgary Stampeders but added there was no evidence to indicate games were impacted by his wagering.

“The CFL is disappointed that the Players’ Association would challenge a decision so fundamental to the integrity of our league,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement. “​The league’s rules prohibiting CFL-related gambling in 2021 were made abundantly clear to all players at the time, yet Mr. Lemon knowingly ignored those rules.

“The prohibition of wagering on the CFL by CFL personnel, including players, is critical to the reputation and standing of the league.​ ​The CFL will vigorously defend its position at the arbitration hearing.”

The Alouettes did not immediately provide a reason for Lemon’s presence amid the suspension but said they would be issuing a statement.

But by appealing the suspension, Lemon becomes eligible to resume practising and playing until such time as an arbitrator renders a decision on his appeal.

The Lemon saga adds to what’s already been a difficult time for the CFL.

Last week, the league suspended Toronto quarterback Chad Kelly from playing in the Argonauts’ two exhibition contests and at least nine regular-season games for violating its gender-based violence policy. Two days later, Kelly was on the field during the club’s rookie camp at the University of Guelph.

And then Friday night, the CFL Players’ Association launched an appeal against the CFL for denying it access to the full 87-page independent report following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Kelly. The union said it received an executive summary but requested access to the entire report as part of its due diligence of the Kelly ruling, only to be turned down by the league.

Kelly, 30, the CFL’s outstanding player last season, wasn’t in equipment and didn’t practise. Following the workout, Toronto GM Mike (Pinball) Clemons said Kelly’s presence was within the conditions of the CFL’s discipline but a league spokesman said Kelly was on the field at the Argos’ discretion.

Toronto opened training camp Sunday without Kelly, announcing the quarterback would not be participating in team activities.

The CFL’s suspension followed an independent investigation commissioned by the league into a lawsuit filed by a former strength-and-conditioning coach against Kelly for sexual harassment and the club for wrongful dismissal.

Lemon, a three-time Grey Cup champion, announced his retirement two weeks before the league announced his suspension despite signing a one-year extension with Montreal during the off-season.

The 35-year-old from Charleston, S.C., helped Montreal defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 in last year’s Grey Cup. The Alouettes went 12-4, including the playoffs, after signing Lemon, who had 26 tackles, nine sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 13 regular-season games. He also earned his 100th CFL sack last season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2024.

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