The CFL team Ottawa Redblacks have suspended defensive lineman Chris Larsen as Toronto Police investigate an alleged homophobic attack on the Toronto Islands that took place last Saturday.
“Late last night, we were made aware of social media allegations of an assault by a group of individuals that included Chris Larsen and immediately commenced an investigation, which is ongoing,” Mark Goudie, CEO of the Redblacks’ parent company Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, in a June 9 statement. “Today, we were advised that an investigation by the Toronto Police is underway.”
The Redblacks drafted Larsen in 2019, but he has yet to appear in a game.
Goudie said he doesn’t know specifics of the incident, but added: “We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
“Diversity and inclusion are central to our organizational values and we will try our best to use our platform to help make acts of hate and violence, including homophobia, stop,” he continued. “We recognize there are larger systemic issues that plague our society, and as an organization, we know that we can play a role in making our community a more tolerant, respectful, educated, and inclusive place.”
The team will not be commenting further while the police investigation is underway.
Toronto Police’s Hate Crime Unit is assisting 52 division officers in investigating allegations that a gay man was taunted with slurs and brutally beaten near the Hanlan’s Point ferry docks on June 5.
On June 6, 24-year-old David Gomez posted on Facebook that a group of men followed him around, directing homophobic slurs at him, before he was “knocked unconscious and beat nearly to death”. He wrote that has a broken nose, shattered face, multiple lacerations, a broken tooth, and a slight fracture on his right hip.
A GoFundMe page for Gomez’s recovery has now raised more than $40,000.
Police announced on June 9 they are looking for three suspects as part of an investigation into the incident.
Police said a 24-year-old man and 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks when they had a “disagreement” with another group of people, police said. A woman from the group grabbed the 27-year-old woman, police said, as the two men punched and kicked the 24-year-old, leaving him with “significant injuries”.
“This remains an active investigation and extensive inquiries are being carried out including scouring for video, recovering evidence and speaking to witnesses to establish the motive,” police said in a statement. “The Toronto Police Service understands that incidents of this nature cause concern in LGBTQ2S+ communities. We want to assure everyone that our investigators are working hard to determine if this was a hate crime and identify the suspects involved.”
The CFL has also issued a statement on the matter, saying the league is aware of the allegations circulating on social media against Larsen.
“We too take this allegation very seriously and look forward to the outcome,” the league said. “In the meantime, we want to reaffirm our values: We condemn homophobia, violence, and hate. We support inclusivity and diversity.”