Canwest’s godfather: mafioso tactics?

An astonishing revelation – Michael Lysko’s $5.2 million lawsuit against the dons of the Canadian Football League


ON September 2, Michael Lysko, former commissioner of the Canadian Football league, filed a lawsuit against 25 defendants, including each of the league’s nine clubs, several club officials, former league president Jeff Giles, commissioner John Tory (a Toronto mayoral candidate) and chairman David Braley and the members of the search committee that hired him.

In his 64-page statement of claim, Lysko alleges that Winnipeg Blue Bombers chairman David Asper threatened to bring the full weight of his family’s extensive print and TV media holdings down on Lysko’s head.

The claimed actions for which Lysko is seeking damages include wrongful dismissal and breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, defamation, breach of confidence, as well as injurious falsehood and intentional interference with contractual relations.

The suit alleges that actions of the defendants before and during his 16 months as the CFL’s commissioner have made the 42-year-old Lysko, a sports marketing executive, unemployable. Lysko was fired on March 20, 2002, 12 days after he made controversial remarks to the Toronto Star about the business practices of the Toronto Argonauts, which he called “one of total incompetence.” (The CFL has since assumed control of the franchise.) Immediately after Lysko’s termination, the CFL terminated an audit investigation initiated by Lysko into salary cap violations by the owners.

“Asper, on behalf of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” the claim further contends, “threatened Lysko in writing with adverse media publicity by his family’s media empire because of Asper’s unwillingness to comply with league office directives regarding the issue of patch policy enforcement.” Patch policy refers to the use of use of corporate advertising patches on game jerseys.

Asper at the time was vice-chairman and governor of the CFL, and chairman and governor of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He remains on Winnipeg’s board of directors.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Asper told the Winnipeg Sun. “Suffice to say, there is a response to each and every allegation.”

Asper and two other owners also clashed with Lysko when he postponed games following 9/11, as had the U.S. National Football League. The Winnipeg match-up against the Edmonton Eskimos was rescheduled for a Monday night – only hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The Aspers, who are Jewish Zionists and fervent advocates of Canada’s integration with the United States, called the league’s decision offensive to their community as did Calgary Stampeders owner Sig Gutsche. Far from being a stand based on principle, they immediately demanded financial compensation from the CFL to cover revenues lost from the cancellation.

Canwest Global, the Winnipeg-based company chaired by his father Izzy Asper, includes the Global Television Network as well as the National Post and ten other daily newspapers. David Asper is chairman of the National Post. Since the dispute, Canwest has sold off many of its media holdings, cut out or reduced bureaus, and slashed journalists in an attempt to satisfy its bankers over its $3-billion debt.

The reporting on Lysko’s lawsuit – exclusively on the sports pages – was accompanied with hand wringing about “a bad time for the CFL.”

The Canadian Press in its September 4th article did not even mention the charges against David Asper. It said it came “an inopportune time for the CFL.” Globe and Mail sports columnist Stephen Brunt devoted an entire article on the theme, “CFL can’t afford another black eye.” (1) Image over substance!

Not a single article appeared saying, “Canwest can’t afford another black eye.”

In the end, it was cold and heartless. Almost like the mob taking care of ‘business’.

Ironically, sports columnist Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun began his article on the sacking of Lysko as follows: “In the end, it was cold and heartless. Almost like the mob taking care of ‘business’.” (2)

Yet eighteen months later, not a single article has appeared on the dangerous implications of Asper’s vengeful threats to use his media empire to bully, intimidate and defame Michael Lysko, which if true, amount to Mafioso tactics.

If these are the media tactics used amongst the rich and powerful of Canada, what kind of media tactics are used against the powerless and the truth?


1. September 4, 2003

2. “Takin’ care of business Lysko firing just a bump in the road for CFL bosses”,

Source: Shunpiking Online, September 22, 2003

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