Sunday 25 February 2018

Mayor defies sports league request

Embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford has defied requests to stay away from a Canadian Football League game
Embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford has defied requests to stay away from a Canadian Football League game

Embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford showed up to watch his home town team lose a Canadian Football League game, ignoring a request by the league's commissioner that he stay away.

Mr Ford walked into the stadium shortly after half time accompanied by security staff. His arrival caused a stir in the Rogers Centre, with fans clogging the aisle as they snapped photos and exchanged handshakes with the mayor who has recently acknowledged smoking crack cocaine and drinking excessively. Additional security personnel kept reporters away from Mr Ford's section.

Wearing a dark blue Toronto Argonauts jersey with "Mayor Ford" and the number 12 across the back, Mr Ford laughed and drew cheers as he held aloft a crudely constructed replica of the Grey Cup, Canadian football's championship trophy.

He ignored a suggestion from CFL commissioner Mark Cohon that he stay away from the Eastern Conference play-off final in which the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Argonauts 36-24. Mr Ford was also asked not to attend Toronto's annual Santa Claus parade.

Some fans yelled derogatory comments as the mayor left the stadium, with Toronto policemen and stadium security staff clearing a path, but the bulk of the crowd was chanting "Rob Ford, Rob Ford" before the smiling mayor got into his car, slapping palms with fans as it drove off.

Outside the stadium before kick-off, fans of both teams said Mr Ford should stay away from the game.

"He needs to take some time off and get help," said Bob Walker. "It's definitely a distraction. It was a distraction for the Santa Claus parade. He means well, he's done well for the city. It's just, it's enough, you know? We need to get on with the city and take his business somewhere else for a bit."

Hamilton fan Shawn Kowalyshyn said the mayor had "embarrassed" himself and his family.

"Unfortunately, I'd like to support him and his policies, but he's just gone too far over the top. It's gotten too ridiculous."

Brothers Kyle and Matt O'Connor of Hamilton held up a hand-lettered sign reading "Our Mayor Doesn't Smoke Crack!!" as they lined up to wait for the stadium gates to open.

Earlier, 44-year-old Mr Ford was spotted outside the city centre studios of the tabloid Sun News Network, where he and brother Doug, a Toronto city councillor, were taping the first episode of their new current events television show, Ford Nation, which is to air tonight.

Mr Ford shared the stage with the team outside City Hall to celebrate their Grey Cup victory in November last year, but he stirred up controversy last week when he wore a team jersey while making a profanity-laced statement denying allegations that he pressed a female employee for oral sex. That prompted Argonauts chief executive Chris Rudge to call his continuing troubles "an unfortunate situation for the city".

Toronto city council voted on Friday to strip the mayor of some of his powers. That effort will continue later today when the council moves to deny him most of his remaining powers, including his office budget. It would also appoint the deputy mayor to lead his executive committee.

Mr Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, accused the council of attempting an illegal "coup" and said the mayor had hired a municipal law expert, George Rust-D'Eye, to challenge the moves.

Recently released court documents show Ford became the subject of a police investigation after news reports surfaced in May that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine. In interviews with police, former staffers accused the mayor of frequently drinking, driving while intoxicated and making sexual advances toward a female staff member.

Mr Ford's erratic behavior was parodied in the opening segment of the US comedy show Saturday Night Live, with cast member Bobby Moynihan portraying the mayor who at one point ducks behind the lectern at a press conference to do a drug deal, exclaiming: "Wow, that's a lot of crack."

Press Association

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