CFL fines veteran kickers over chipped football controversy

Castillo took issue with the chipped balls in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ season-opening
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Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo (14) kicks the ball during practice ahead of the 110th CFL Grey Cup against the Montreal Alouettes in Hamilton, Ont., Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. Kickers Castillo, Brett Lauther, Sean Whyte and Lewis Ward were fined by the CFL on Friday after all publicly spoke out on the league’s use of chipped footballs on field-goal attempts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Kickers Sergio Castillo, Brett Lauther, Sean Whyte and Lewis Ward were fined by the CFL on Friday after publicly speaking out on the league’s use of chipped footballs on field-goal attempts.

Castillo took issue with the chipped balls in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ season-opening 27-12 home loss to the Montreal Alouettes on June 6. Castillo, who made over 90 per cent of his attempts in 2023, missed two of three field goals he tried in the game as well as a convert.

Afterwards, Castillo contended the chips — which collect statistical data for the CFL — impacted the ball’s trajectory and made it difficult for kickers to do their jobs.

“I don’t know where to aim,” Castillo told reporters after the game. “Every time I’m out there, I’m literally praying the Rosary.

“I don’t know where to aim.”

Lauther, Whyte and Ward all took to social media to come to Castillo’s defence. Shortly afterwards, the CFL said there was no evidence the chips negatively impacted the balls but did amend its rules to allow teams to determine before games whether their punters and kickers would play with chipped footballs or those without chips.

The league put microchips into its footballs this season to help generate real-time advanced statistics. It did so in some games last year, but none were used in kicking situations.

But the league will continue using microchip-implanted balls this season and revisit their usage before the 2025 campaign.

On Friday, Castillo was fined for violating the CFL’s code of conduct. Lauther, Whyte and Ward were all disciplined for breaching the league’s social media policy.

Ottawa punter Richie Leone was also fined, but for a “tourist hit” — a type of unnecessary roughness foul — on Winnipeg defensive back Marquise Bridges in the Renegades’ 23-19 win June 13.

Saskatchewan defensive lineman Micah Johnson was disciplined for contravening the CFL’s code of conduct and verbally abusing an official in the Riders’ 33-30 road win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday night.

As per league policy, the amounts of the fines was not disclosed.

The Canadian Press