While the Canadian Football League isn’t playing this season thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of its players made the news this weekend—and not in a good way. That would be Jeff Knox Jr., a linebacker who’s currently on the active roster of the Toronto Argonauts. Here’s more from Lauren Lee of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on what Knox has been charged with:
Police have charged a Verona man with attempted homicide in connection to a shooting in South Side Flats last week that left two men hospitalized.
Police obtained an arrest warrant Friday for Jeffrey Ali Knox Jr., 28, in connection to a shooting on Oct. 23. He is being charged with two counts of attempted homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, possession and a firearms violation.
…Responding officers found two men with gunshot wounds at the intersection of East Carson and 17th streets. One of the men sustained a gunshot wound to the right thigh, and the other a gunshot wound to the left thigh.
…Before the shooting, police said in the complaint the footage showed that a verbal altercation occurred between a man in a gray shirt — identified as the shooter — and one of the victims, noting the shooter shoved the victim. Police then observed the suspect hit the first victim in the face and then raised a gun in his right hand toward the second victim. Police observed the shooter lowering the gun and the second victim falling to the ground, according to the complaint.
That piece further details that the police based their identification by finding the driver of the car the shooter got into afterwards, then finding video footage of someone getting out of that car and into a car registered to Knox. As for the Argonauts, they responded with a statement Sunday:
On Saturday evening the Toronto Argonauts were made aware of multiple charges being laid against linebacker Jeffrey Knox Jr. in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The club obviously takes these matters extremely seriously and each member of the organization fully understands the moral expectation and obligation that comes with the privilege of representing the Toronto Argonauts. At the same time, the club respects each person’s right to a fair process. In this case, the Toronto Argonauts will not determine any potential team related consequences until the club has conducted all due diligence in this matter. The Argonauts will avoid further comment until such time.
Before joining Toronto this offseason, Knox previously played for the Ottawa Redblacks (in 2019), the Argonauts (in 2018) and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (in two separate stints, from 2015-16 and during 2017). He played in college with Pitt (where he was kicked off that team in 2010 after allegedly choking and slapping a woman who told him she was pregnant), then with California University of Pennsylvania. He also spent time in the NFL with Tampa Bay (twice), Washington and Tennessee, but hasn’t appeared in a regular season NFL game.
It should be noted that “all due diligence” does not necessarily imply a conclusion of court proceedings, something that obviously takes significant time. Rather, if CFL history is anything to go on, the team will likely do a short investigation of their own and then make a decision on whether to part ways with Knox.
There have been numerous players released by CFL teams over the years after the filing of charges, including Trevis Smith (sentenced to five and a half years in jail for knowingly exposing women to HIV), Yonus Davis (detained with 67 pounds of ectasy, later sentenced to 33 months in prison), Adam Braidwood (charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and aggravated assault, eventually sentenced to four and a half years), Jordan Matechuk (caught with hundreds of steroid pills at the Canada-U.S. border, sentenced to 90 days in jail), Justin Cox (charged with multiple instances of domestic violence, banned from the league, found not guilty in one case but guilty in another and eventually sentenced to nine months in jail), Jerome Messam (released in 2018 after a voyeurism charge from 2016 came to light, trial still pending), Euclid Cummings (released in 2018 over sexual assault charges) and Teague Sherman (released in 2018 over sexual assault charges). The current legal status of the Cummings and Sherman cases is unclear.
However, there have also been cases where CFL teams elected to stand by players who were facing criminal charges, and to stand by them all the way through the court process. That happened with two Saskatchewan Roughriders’ players (Dwight Anderson and Taj Smith) in 2013 following assault charges in the wake of a bar fight, and charges were eventually stayed against both of those players. The charges against Knox appear more serious, though, so it might be a bit surprising if the Argonauts don’t wind up moving on from him. The timeline there isn’t obvious, though; the previous cases above saw teams part ways with players anywhere from weeks (Davis) to months (Braidwood) after the fact. And there’s also no timetable for the next CFL season, which might also have an effect on a decision here.
If the Argonauts do decide to part ways with Knox over this, it will be interesting to see if the CFL office issues a league-wide ban on signing him. That’s something that’s been done very rarely over the league’s history, with it only seeming to start with Ray Rice in 2014 (and that was preventative; Rice never actually signed with a CFL team). But it has happened several times in recent years, starting with Cox in 2017, moving through Messam, Sherman, and Cummings in 2018, and then going to Johnny Manziel in 2019. The last four bans there happened under current commissioner Randy Ambrosie, so there would certainly seem to be a chance that could happen again.
At any rate, Knox is now facing very significant charges. And it will be interesting to see what the Argonauts’ investigation concludes, whether that leads to them cutting ties with him or not, and whether there’s any action from the league on this front.
[The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 2017 photo at top from Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca]