As Red Deerians head into a municipal election, and possibly a federal one later in the fall, many citizens have been more interested in news from the sports sections of newspapers, television and radio broadcasts and web sites.
First there was the Quebec City arena funding issue, one which had the federal government incredibly considering a notion to hand over $175-million in public money for a new facility.
And then came the story from Edmonton that the CFL Eskimos, once a league powerhouse but a team mired in a disastrous season on the field, had signed former Saskatchewan Roughrider general manager Eric Tillman to lead the team.
Tillman, a three time Grey Cup champion manager, pleaded guilty last January to sexually assaulting his 16-year-old babysitter in the summer of 2008. The facts that came out of court clearly indicated the incident was at the low end of criminal behaviour, and that the victim and her family were satisfied with an apology without the full force of the law.
In court Tillman was granted an absolute discharge, meaning today he still has no criminal record. Days later Tillman resigned from his position as the Roughrider general manager.
Debate over his new appointment has been controversial. On one side there are many who say hiring Tillman is sending the wrong message to the community, that he has hardly earned the trust in such a short time to be offered the top administrative position of the football team. Opponents to Tillman’s hiring add there are many other qualified football team managers available for hire, and that taking on the disgraced former Roughrider only gives the impression of a desperate team resorting to desperate measures.
However, there are many others who believe that Tillman has suffered enough and that the league, team and community should yield to giving the man a second chance.
We say the hiring of Tillman at this time undermines the credibility of not only the CFL and Edmonton Eskimos but as well to the nation, where the protection of women against sexual abuse is paramount. As well, Tillman’s conduct exhibited incredibly poor judgment, not to mention a breach of trust between an adult and a young person under his employ.
There is no doubt Tillman has paid a mighty price since the incident came to light last year. And any offender in similar circumstances should expect a second chance to once again be a contributor to society.
But to have him back in the same position of public prominence and authority just nine months after conceding the mindboggling errors of his ways is too soon.
Tillman needs more time to prove to Canadians a record of sincere contrition and amends has been made before he once again enjoys the fruits of football glory.