Is it sports or human resources?(Editorial)

HR issues being played out in the sports world
By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/27/2011

Reading the sports pages of the daily paper the other day, I wondered if I had mistakenly picked up an HR magazine.

I no longer follow sports as religiously as I did in my 20s (I went into a weeks-long funk one year when the Toronto Blue Jays lost the pennant to the Detroit Tigers in the last week of the season). Work and family and too many major league strikes have made spectator sports far less significant. But Canadian Football League playoffs still pique my interest, so after the Montreal Alouettes beat my beloved Toronto Argonauts 33-24 in the Eastern Final to claim a berth in the Grey Cup, I turned to the sports pages for a postmortem.

But it seemed more like the pages of

Canadian HR Reporter

than the

Toronto Star


First off was the question of succession planning. Argo quarterback Damon Allen is 43 and failed to rise to the occasion. Are the Argos ready to put backup QB Michael Bishop, who moved the offensive convincingly when he replaced Allen, into the starting position? Did the Argos err by not putting their succession plan in place earlier — could Bishop have led them to the Grey Cup?

It brings up the issue of mandatory retirement. As one sports columnist noted, Allen is showing no indication he plans to hang up his cleats. What then? If a QB change is warranted, will it be necessary to force Allen, one of the CFL’s all-time greats and the leading passer in professional football history, to leave his position?

Diversity and discrimination are also part of the Argo-Alouette post-game story. Argo player Arland Bruce, upset after losing, wondered aloud if the referees are racist. Toronto coach Michael Clemens and both Argo QBs are black. While Bruce’s remarks were off-base (he was fined by the team despite afterwards distancing himself from his own unwarranted comments), there is a point about the need for diversity among the CFL’s refs. The league’s ref squads are composed entirely of white men. Some officials of colour, and women, would be a welcome change.

And speaking of women refs, there’s more HR conundrums in the sports pages than just the Argos. Take English soccer manager Mike Newell of Luton. After his team lost a match, Newell complained the assistant ref was a woman, and that no women should be refs. “I know it sounds sexist, but I am sexist,” he added. Dinosaurs like Newell illustrate why human rights commissions are necessary.

And there’s more HR.

There’s the need to motivate underachievers (what’s wrong with the Ottawa Senators — the hockey ones), the successful orientation of new employees (National League baseball rookie of the year Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins thanked his teammates because “every day they gave me the energy to play in the big leagues”), terminations (Columbus Blue Jackets fired their coach just 15 games into the NHL season), compensation and outrageous salaries (the New York Yankees) and recognition (Patrick Roy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame).

All this HR in just one day of reading the sports pages. Maybe I’ve been focusing too much on the business section.

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