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Athletics Canada CEO facing scrutiny for inappropriate tweets

David Bedford is in hot water over sexually-charged Twitter posts over the weekend, defends them as humorous exchanges

Athletics Canada CEO David Bedford is facing scrutiny over his recent Twitter activity, after recirculating social media posts that were sexual in nature over the last several months. Bedford was notified about complaints over the weekend and has since deleted the tweets in question and made his Twitter account private.

David Bedford Twitter

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The tweets did not originate with his account, but he engaged with them directly with sexually suggestive repiles and comments. His account has since been made private and the tweets deleted. According to TSN, Bedford responded to one Twitter user who was alluding to oral sex, saying: “You are killing me girl. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry reading your tweets!” In another, a woman tweeted about not wearing a bra, and Bedford responded: “Always important to have a couple of firm, upstanding individuals.”

Bedford is defending his comments as “humorous exchanges,” adding that since he was using his personal Twitter account (as opposed to the AC Twitter account) his actions should be a non-issue. Others have pointed out that his bio identifies him as the CEO of Athletics Canada, therefore implicating the organization. “It’s my personal account. It’s not like I was sending out photos or tweets myself,” Bedford told CBC Sports. “In this day and age with all we have been going through, I found some of these things funny so I commented. Its apparent others didn’t feel the same way so I removed them.”

In the era of Safe Sport, which aims to eliminate sexual harassment, as well as physical and mental harassment among athletic organizations, board members of Athletics Canada are concerned that Bedford’s comments make him unfit as the leader of the organization. “There are certainly concerns that have been expressed by some of our membership,” board chair Helen Manning told CBC. “Those types of comments are not something that is in keeping with the policy of how we see our people in the public domain.”

Audrey Giles, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a member of Athletics Canada’s Safe Sport Committee, said Bedford’s behaviour brings his judgment into question.”If he felt that that sort of public behaviour was acceptable, it raises questions about if he is the right person to be leading an organization through this era of safe sport,” Giles said. “I think it’s just like the hypocrisy of talking about having to hold coaches to a higher account, having to make spaces that are safe for athletes. Yet being somebody who engages in this, frankly, creepy online behaviour with women?”

Athletics Canada held an emergency board meeting on Monday night to discuss next steps, but has made no further announcement regarding Bedford’s position with the organization. Bedford, for his part, does not view his actions as violating Safe Sport, but says he respects those who felt his tweets were inappropriate. “The interesting thing to me is that there’s some suggestion that this compromises safe sport, and … I didn’t abuse anybody, I didn’t harass anybody. There’s nothing like that here. I was just merely commenting on other people’s comments that I thought were humorous,” he said.

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Bedford was named CEO of Athletics Canada on April 1, 2019, after holding several positions in Canadian sports over the course of four decades, including the executive director, marketing and communications with the Canadian Olympic Committee, the executive director of Team Canada for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the senior vice-president of business operations for the Toronto Argonauts and the 100th Grey Cup Festival. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal and also served on the board of directors for the Canadian Olympic Committee and Water Polo Canada, and was the chef de mission for the 2004 Olympic Games. Most notably, Bedford was responsible for developing and launching the Canadian team’s “Paint the Town Red” promotional campaign prior to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.