Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford showed up Sunday to watch his hometown team play a Canadian Football League playoff game, ignoring a request by the league’s commissioner that he not attend.
And though Ford had quite a bit of fun in stands, the Toronto Argonauts lost 36-24.
Ford walked into the stadium shortly after halftime accompanied by security staffers. His arrival caused a stir in Section 129 of the Rogers Centre, with fans clogging the aisle as they snapped photos and exchanged handshakes with the mayor who recently has acknowledged smoking crack cocaine and drinking excessively. Additional security personnel kept reporters away from Ford’s section.
Wearing a dark blue Argonauts jersey with ”Mayor Ford” and the number 12 across the back, Ford laughed and drew cheers as he held aloft a crudely constructed replica of the Grey Cup, Canadian football’s championship trophy.
Ford ignored a suggestion from CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon that he stay away from Sunday’s Eastern Conference final in which the Hamilton Tiger-Cats disappointed the home crowd. Ford was also asked not to attend Toronto’s annual Santa Claus parade.
Some fans yelled derogatory comments as the mayor left the stadium, with Toronto policemen and stadium security staffers clearing a path. But the bulk of the crowd was chanting ”Rob Ford, Rob Ford!” before the smiling mayor got into his black Cadillac SUV, slapping palms with fans as his car drove off.
Outside the downtown stadium before kickoff, fans of both teams said Ford should stay away from the game.
”He needs to take some time off and get help,” said Bob Walker, dressed in an Argonauts baseball cap and jacket. ”It’s definitely a distraction. It was a distraction for the Santa Claus parade. He means well, he’s done well for the city. It’s just, it’s enough, you know? We need to get on with the city and take his business somewhere else for a bit.”
Hamilton fan Shawn Kowalyshyn, wearing a Tiger-Cats jersey, said the mayor has ”embarrassed” himself and his family.
”Unfortunately, I’d like to support him and his policies, but he’s just gone too far over the top. … It’s gotten too ridiculous,” Kowalyshyn said.
Brothers Kyle and Matt O’Connor of Hamilton held up a hand-lettered sign reading `Our Mayor Doesn’t Smoke Crack!!’ as they lined up to wait for stadium gates to open.
Earlier Sunday, the 44-year-old Ford was spotted outside the downtown studios of the tabloid Sun News Network, where he and brother Doug, a Toronto city councilor, were taping the first episode of their new current events television show, ”Ford Nation,” which is to air Monday night.
An avid Argos fan, Ford shared the stage with the team outside City Hall to celebrate their Grey Cup victory in November 2012. But the mayor stirred up controversy last week when he wore a team jersey while making a profanity-laced statement denying allegations he had pressured a female employee for oral sex. That prompted Argonauts CEO Chris Rudge to call Ford’s ongoing calamities ”an unfortunate situation for the city.”
The Toronto city council voted Friday to strip the mayor of some of his powers. That effort will continue Monday when the council moves to deny Ford most of his remaining powers, including his office budget. It would also appoint the deputy mayor to lead his executive committee.
Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, accused the council of attempting an illegal ”coup” and said the mayor has hired a municipal law expert, George Rust-D’Eye, to challenge the moves.
Recently released court documents show Ford became the subject of a police investigation after news reports surfaced in May that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine. In interviews with police, former staffers accused the mayor of frequently drinking, driving while intoxicated and making sexual advances toward a female staffer.
Ford’s erratic behavior was parodied in the opening segment of the US comedy show ”Saturday Night Live,” with cast member Bobby Moynihan portraying the mayor who at one point ducks behind the lectern at a press conference to do a drug deal, exclaiming, ”Wow, that’s a lot of crack.”
Ford finally decides he needs to go on a TV show which would believe him, and then is shown being interviewed by CBS ”60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan (Kate McKinnon) who accepts his denials that he did crack, smoked marijuana and used alcohol.
Logan recently had to apologize on-air for a ”60 Minutes” story about the deadly 2012 attack on a US mission in Benghazi, Libya, saying the network could no longer trust the testimony of a former security contractor who had claimed he was present during the attack.