By Brian Whitwham
When the Canadian Football League announced its return to the nation’s capital, Brad Watters, president of the Ottawa Renegades, promised to build a “competitive, community-oriented organization …worthy of respect both on and off the field.”
Considering the team won three of their first 12 games, it might be a stretch to call the Renegades competitive at this point.
But it’s only the first season, and the fact that the staff has rotated almost 60 players through a 39-man roster demonstrates an honest effort.
While the team may be vying for respect on the field, so far the organization has tried to keep the other half of Watters’ promise: community involvement. On top of the regular season, the team’s schedule has been busy with charity work and special appearances.
For example, in July, players participated in the Chow Down for Charity event raising $2,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.
In August, members of the team shaved their heads to show support for Cops for Cancer, an annual campaign that has raised more than $11 million for cancer research.
The team also visited at least 10 summer children’s camps to lead football workshops and, among other charities, they’ve donated to the United Way, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and the Canadian Hearing Society.
In total, the Renegades have had about 30 events on their schedule dedicated to the community.
Now, it would be naive to ignore the notion that there’s a self-serving aspect to the team’s efforts.
Like any other money-making business, the Renegades want to get their name publicized in as many places as possible. Each of the events mentioned can be seen purely as a marketing promotion.
Some may then question whether the Renegades are charitable workers or aggressive advertisers. At the end of the day, who cares?
The bottom line is that no matter how often the team wins, the community benefits from its presence if it continues to stay active outside of the stadium.
Often with pro sports, all of the focus is placed on a team’s standing.
When all of the speculation arose over the prospect of the Senators departure from Ottawa, it’s doubtful that many considered how that would affect the community.
Also, let’s not forget that the Renegades have benefitted the local economy by bringing thousands of fans into the area.
These effects often aren’t appreciated until they’re gone.
So far, Watters’ promise has been kept and hopefully that will continue. Regardless of the Renegades’ motives, the community still wins.