Sandro Grande (L) and Patrick Viollat of MLS team CF Montreal's reserve team. Grande was fired after one day over past comments. (CF Montreal.) Sandro Grande (L) and Patrick Viollat of MLS team CF Montreal’s reserve team. Grande was fired after one day over past comments. (CF Montreal.)

Past comments have proven a problem for many in the soccer world and beyond. The latest case of this comes at MLS side CF Montréal, which fired newly-hired reserve team coach Sandro Grande one day after signing him, but after intense pushback from Quebec politicians over Grande’s past comments. Those comments include an apparent endorsement of an assassination attempt on Parti Québécois premier-elect Pauline Marois in 2012. (That tweet was posted to Grande’s account, but he denies he sent it).

Other past comments Grande (seen at left above) does not deny include remarks on Facebook against Quebec sovereigntists. Some of those saw him call them “f–king hillbillies in the north,” “stupid,” and “on welfare.” The sum total of Grande’s past behavior led to a lot of politicians condemning his hire Monday and Tuesday. And the team eventually reversed course, fired him Tuesday, and apologized:

“We recognize that the hiring of Sandro Grande was a mistake, and we regret any repercussions that may have been caused by this decision,” said Gabriel Gervais, President and CEO of CF Montréal. “We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to anyone who was hurt or shocked. Clearly, we have demonstrated a lack of sensibility and have grossly underestimated what he said and what he did several years ago.”

The largest controversy around Grande (a 45-year-old Canadian, born in Montreal, who played in Italy, Canada, Scandinavia, and more) comes from a tweet posted to his account the day after after a Sept. 4, 2012 shooting at a PQ victory party that saw one person killed and another wounded. That tweet called for the assassination of Marois, reading “The only mistake the shooter made last night was not getting the target!!! Marois!!! Next time buddy!! Hopefully!” Grande claimed back then his account was compromised for that particular tweet (which saw him lose a job coaching youth soccer), but didn’t deny the Facebook comments insulting PQ voters. He maintained the “compromised” explanation on that tweet to La Presse this week, but that explanation certainly isn’t universally accepted.

The link to the assassination comments may be the most prominent thing Grande has taken criticism for, but it’s far from the only one. His comments against sovereigntists in general have drawn fire. And there’s also the on-field incident in 2009, when CF Montréal (then the Montreal Impact) released him after he grabbed teammate Mauro Biello by the throat.

Those past incidents didn’t stop CF Montréal from bringing Grande back. And his initial statement on his hiring did say “I made some serious mistakes several years ago and I offer my sincere apologies to those whom my past comments have offended in any way.” But CF Montréal’s decision to hire him led to a lot of backlash from prominent Quebec politicians, as a Canadian Press story on this illustrates:

Ewan Sauves, press attaché for [Quebec premier François] Legault, had said earlier Tuesday morning: “In the past, Mr. Grande has expressed unacceptable and hurtful words. His nomination shows a lack of respect and sends a bad message. This is a big lack of judgment on the part of CF Montréal.”

Quebec Sports Minister Isabelle Charest expressed her concerns over the repercussions of Grande’s hiring.

“As we strive to make significant change in the culture of sports, CF Montréal lacks enormous judgement with this hiring,” she wrote on her Twitter account. “The comments made by Sandro Grande are unacceptable and have no place in our society.

“There is reason to wonder what message is being sent to young people, especially those who will be under Mr. Grande’s responsibility. For real change we must all work in the same direction.”

And PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon called this hiring “unacceptable” in a Twitter thread Monday, also saying Grande’s mistake was more than one tweet:

St-Pierre Plamondon said he was made aware of the apology but that it was “insufficient and failed to mention the group it targeted (sovereignists) or the person he hoped would be killed (P. Marois).”

Grande, he said, “did not commit a single banal error or a tweet too much one night, he made on several occasions garbage and criminal statements targeting more than two million indépendantiste Quebecers.”

Following CF Montréal’s about-face on Grande, initial assistant Patrick Viollat (seen at right above with Grande) will take over as head coach of the MLS side’s reserve team. That team plays in the Première ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ).

[The Montreal Gazette; photo from CF Montréal]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.