Ford shrugs off questions about transit riders booted for football team

Toronto Mayor Ford is questioned by media about last week's football altercations at the lunch...

Toronto Mayor Ford is questioned by media about last week's football altercations at the lunch break. MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

DON PEAT AND CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford sacked any suggestion he pulled strings to get a TTC bus for his high school football team.

"I did absolutely nothing wrong," a frustrated Ford told reporters Monday. "What bothers me the most is when you find out that people were told to get off the bus. I'm all about service. That drives me nuts but I can't tell Mr. Byford what to do and how to run the TTC; I can't tell the police what to do, nor would I. I have nothing to do with this."

The incident started Thursday when Ford skipped out of city council to coach the Don Bosco Eagles in their semifinal playoff game against Father Henry Carr. The Eagles won the game after it was stopped early when the assistant coach of the rival team confronted a referee on the field after a fumble recovery call. Police were called to the field and ended up requesting a TTC bus to transport Ford's team back to its school.

To respond to the police request, the TTC told fare-paying riders to get off the 36 Finch bus--which was full-- and the 46 Martin Grove bus.

During the wait for a TTC bus to arrive, Ford called TTC CEO Andy Byford on behalf of police to ask about the bus.

Ford, who has been under fire since the incident, stressed he controlled his team.

"If the police decide there is a situation that seems to be serious that's their call. Just because my team is there you're trying to make it my story; it has nothing to do with me."

Ford said he called Byford to assist police after a 20-minute delay waiting for the TTC bus to arrive.

"You guys should go to the root of the problem and talk to their head coach," Ford said. "If their coach never went on the field to chase a referee, we wouldn't be in this situation right now.

"It is terrible that these people got kicked off a bus -- that's not my call," he added.

Ford accused reporters of trying to go after him but "there is nothing here."

Brian Riddell of the Toronto District Catholic Athletic Association said the rival coach has been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.

"The situation is probably blown a little bit out of proportion," Riddell said, adding there was no confrontation between the two football teams and Henry Carr players actually tried to pull their coach back to the sidelines.

TTC sorry for booting riders

The TTC is apologizing for ditching riders to pick up Mayor Rob Ford's high-school football team.

Meanwhile, Toronto Police say they made the right call when they asked for the bus ride.

Two TTC buses dropped off fare-paying riders to respond to the police request for a shelter bus for Ford's team at Father Henry Carr school on Thursday. Eventually one bus took Ford's team, the Don Bosco Eagles, back to its school.

"My deepest apologies go to the riders who were displaced," TTC chairman Karen Stintz said Monday. "It was a full bus (on the Finch route) and there is no question our riders were inconvenienced."

While Stintz said "in hindsight" the busload of riders shouldn't have been displaced to transport the football team, she said TTC transit control received the request for the shelter bus from Toronto Police with no reference to Ford, his football team or that the bus was needed at a football game.

Stintz said the TTC will continue to provide shelter buses upon request to the police.

"I don't want transit control to ever be put in the position to evaluate whether a request (from police) is legitimate," she said.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash said officers asked for the buses to ensure a volatile situation didn't turn violent. However, he said police had nothing to do with the decision to dump TTC riders.

"Our officers were concerned the situation could escalate ... so they took prudent steps to prevent that from happening," Pugash said.


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