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BlogGate: CFL investigates impersonation of Ticats' staffer

Andrew Bucholtz
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One of the most bizarre stories of the CFL offseason emerged today over at Drew Edwards' Hamilton Spectator blog, The Scratching Post. Edwards wrote an interesting analysis of the potential impact the trade of Steven Jyles (pictured, right) could have on Hamilton yesterday, but the really notable part came this morning, and it came thanks to a comment. Edwards received a comment on that post signed by "Scott McNaughton" (for those who don't know, McNaughton is the Tiger-Cats' director of communications), but which had plenty of indications it wasn't what it claimed to be. Here's the comment in full:

Your third and fourth point sort of contradict each other... First you say Joe Mack could end up blowing his two picks and even if he does draft well, they won't help right away...(fair point) Then you say, Toronto is in tight cuz they needed that draft pick to help their canadian content - especially since the draft is always top heavy...but if its top heavy, then Winnipeg having two picks in the top four is great, and - as you eluded to - they need help with their canadian contingent.

First off, it's tough to rationalize anyone with a public-relations job displaying this kind of awful grammar (and if you read the Tiger-Cats' press releases and blogs, you know they aren't like this). There are plenty of indications this isn't from someone who particularly cares about their words (see "cuz", "canadian", "eluded" instead of "alluded", and all the misused commas, ellipses and dashes). Second, most public-relations professionals aren't really going to start publicly commenting on beat writers' blogs, and particularly not on entries that are only tangentially related to the team. Third, it's reasonably rare to see someone in one CFL team's PR department directly commenting publicly on the moves of other teams. Add those up, and it's pretty clear this comment probably didn't come from McNaughton.

If the story ended there, it wouldn't really be a story; plenty of impersonations happen on the web, and when they're as bad and as easily picked apart as this one, there's no real issue there. However, the real story is where this particular comment appears to have originated. Edwards used IP address tracking software to pinpoint the comment's origin, and found that not only was it from Winnipeg, Manitoba, but that IP is associated with "mail.bluebombers.com". Yep, that's the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' official website, and it would seem logical that anyone whose IP is connected to that works for the team in some capacity.

Edwards did some follow-up work on this and found that the league and the Bombers are both investigating the incident, which is notable. He adds that someone with the same IP address has commented on his blog before about Jyles (in February). Given the sometimes-contentious history between the Bombers and the Tiger-Cats, this could draw some attention.

It's worth pointing out that this isn't exactly a crisis even if the comment was made by someone who works for Winnipeg. As remarked above, the ruse was so easily dispelled that few would take it seriously, so if it was an attempt to hurt McNaughton's reputation, it certainly wasn't a particularly successful one. The lack of sophistication involved would also suggest that this was hardly a well-thought-out plan, and probably not one approved by anyone with any sort of significant standing in the Bombers' organization; there really isn't much for the team to gain from any planned actions along these lines, and there's a lot to lose.

However, it's still probably a good thing that both the Bombers and the CFL are trying to get to the bottom of this, and hopefully they'll make it clear that impersonating other teams' employees is out of bounds; that could help head off similar actions in the future. This particular instance doesn't appear to have caused any significant damage, but impersonations by team personnel are very bush-league and have the potential to hurt the reputation of both the club and the league. In this case, the situation's mostly just worth a chuckle, but that doesn't mean the issue should be ignored.

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