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By Daniel Fung, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
CFL can turn Braidwood saga into a positive
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - You can't blame the CFL if it is quick to distance itself from the Adam Braidwood saga, but here's hoping the league can find a way to turn a terrible negative into a positive for the next generation of young football players in Canada.

Braidwood, a former defensive end for the Edmonton Eskimos, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison this past Friday after pleading guilty to sexual assault and careless storage of firearm. The 28-year-old admitted that he sexually assaulted, choked and threatened to kill a woman in December 2010

Ironically, Braidwood learned of his sentence on the same day the CFL's BC Lions held their annual Orange Helmet Awards dinner - an evening dedicated to celebrating and raising funds for British Columbia Amateur Football.

Braidwood has no ties to the Lions organization, but he has plenty with amateur football in British Columbia. He was a standout player with BC high school football's Seaquam Seahawks - he is still listed on the school's football website as being a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame - before moving on to play collegiate football at Washington State. He was then drafted first overall by the Eskimos in the 2006 CFL Canadian Draft.

British Columbia is where his football career began and where we are left to now wonder. Perhaps young up-and-coming athletes, like Braidwood once was, might have been helped early on had there been programs in place addressing the issue of violence, particularly those directed toward women.

There are plenty of programs aimed toward amateur athletes that deal with certain hot-button topics such as post-secondary education, drug and substance abuse and, more recently, proper care techniques when dealing with head injuries and concussions. As far as those specifically tailored toward minor football players across Canada, the CFL has its stamp on a good number of them.

But when it comes to those programs that deal with the often taboo topic of domestic violence, they seem to be much less prevalent and certainly much less publicized. There are those who would argue it is just as, if not more, important to the development of upstanding citizens. That's especially the case when you consider that young athletes are impressionable and often believe they're as invincible off the field as they are on it.

There have been some recent signs that professional sports clubs are starting to bring this issue to the forefront.

The BC Lions launched a program back in 2011 called "Be More Than a Bystander," which involves presenting educational workshops for high school students as well as to amateur football coaches. There were some suggestions the program was launched in response to the situation involving one of their former players, Josh Boden.

Boden, once a promising young receiver who coincidentally also had his amateur football roots in British Columbia as a star player with the Canadian Junior Football League's South Surrey Rams, had a long criminal history including sexual assault. He was sentenced to one year in prison for his sex crimes last August.

The sagas involving the likes of Braidwood and Boden should be enough to convince the CFL, if not all professional sports leagues, that an educational program dealing with violence toward women is a necessity and one that ought to begin at the amateur level and is continually reinforced as players advance through the ranks.

The CFL has an opportunity to make something positive come out of this terrible story. Let's hope the league can find a way to go down that path instead of sweeping everything under the rug.

It might mean not having to deal with cases like Braidwood or Boden again in the near future.