CFL suspends ex-Broncos draft pick Chad Kelly minimum 9 games for violating gender-based violence policy

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The Canadian Football League announced Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly has been suspended a minimum of nine games for violating the league’s gender-based violence policy. 

Kelly, who was “Mr. Irrelevant” in the 2017 NFL Draft following his college career at Clemson and Ole Miss, was accused of sexual harassment in February by a female former Argonauts assistant strength coach. She is also suing the Argonauts for wrongful dismissal. 

An independent third-party investigation team looked into the allegations, and the CFL saw what it needed from that investigation to suspend Kelly. 

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Chad Kelly throws ball

Chad Kelly #12 of the Toronto Argonauts throws a pass against the Montreal Alouettes during the first half of the CFL Eastern Final at BMO Field on November 11, 2023 in Toronto, Canada. (John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images)

“Players are the ambassadors of our great game,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement on Tuesday. “They are expected to be leaders in the locker room and role models in the community. It was important that we performed our due diligence to properly review this matter from all points of view. That in-depth investigation found that Mr. Kelly unequivocally violated the CFL’s Gender-based Violence Policy.”

“Mr. Kelly’s suspension is the direct result of his behaviour.”

The league also noted that Kelly’s return to the field will be dependent on confidential assessments by an independent expert, as well as attending mandatory counseling sessions which will be conducted by a gender-based violence expert. 

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Kelly will, then, be reassessed following the nine games before the league announce if he can return. 

“The addition of mandatory counselling focuses on his need for self-reflection and understanding of his actions,” the statement continued from Ambrosie. “He must take full advantage of this opportunity for personal betterment in order to return to the CFL.”

Kelly is the reigning Most Outstanding Player in the CFL, a league which he has been quarterbacking in since 2022. 

The woman suing Kelly and the Argonauts was employed by the organization from 2018 through January 2024. According to her lawsuit, she claims Kelly made numerous romantic advances on her. 

Chad Kelly throws ball

Chad Kelly #12 of the Toronto Argonauts throws the football during warm-ups before a game against the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL Eastern Final at BMO Field on November 11, 2023 in Toronto, Canada. (John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images)

Among the allegations were Kelly, during the 2022 and 2023 seasons, “repeatedly sought to initiate romantic connections…by asking (her) out on numerous occasions,” the lawsuit read, per the Winnipeg Free Press.

After refusing, Kelly was allegedly persistent and things, then, escalated in November 2023. The former coach claimed Kelly “publicly accused (her) of engaging in romantic relations with another team member.” Kelly allegedly was “screaming, cursing, and waving his hands at (her)” when the coach addressed the quarterback privately about the claims. 

Things eventually got to Argonauts assistant GM John Murphy following a breakfast incident where Kelly allegedly shouted across the room derogatory words and said he couldn’t wait until she was fired. Head athletic therapist Usama Mujtaba was among the staff eating breakfast with the female coach at the time. 

Murphy allegedly told the female coach that she “should not have spoken to (Kelly) and that she has now ‘opened a can of worms that didn’t need to be opened.’”

Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, has had off-the-field character issues reported back to his days in high school. It’s regarded as one of the reasons his NFL Draft stock fell so far to the point where he almost went undrafted until the Denver Broncos took him with the last pick. 

Chad Kelly looks on field

Chad Kelly #12 of the Toronto Argonauts on the sideline before the game between the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Regina, Canada. (Brent Just/Getty Images)

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Kelly is the CFL’s highest-paid player following his 2023 campaign where he threw for 4,100 yards and 23 touchdowns over 18 games (16 starts). 

Kelly, 30, is also suspended for the league’s preseason games as well. 

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