CFL Pass

Jeff Keeping won't seek re-election as CFL Players' Association president

TORONTO — Jeff Keeping won't be seeking re-election next week as president of the CFL Players' Association.

The union made the announcement Friday.

"When I first got involved with the PA it was never about position or titles, it's always been about being a good teammate and serving the guys and the game," Keeping, a married father of three young boys, told The Canadian Press. "When I first decided to run for president . . . I had the support to run and we identified areas we thought we could do better and I'm proud of where we've got to and we've been able to accomplish a lot of those goals that we set out to do.

"With that being said, I have a very busy family right now with my three boys (aged six, four and two) and they deserve more of my time. I feel like the time is right. It gives a new group an opportunity to come in and continue to move the needle forward and serve the players."

Another factor in Keeping's decision was becoming a firefighter with Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services in January. Keeping is maintaining a family tradition as his father, Berick, served as fire captain in nearby Markham, Ont., while his grandfather, Paul Whitehead, was a Toronto firefighter.

"It's something I always wanted to do after playing football," Keeping said.

The six-foot-five, 295-pound Keeping spent 12 seasons as a CFL player with the Toronto Argonauts (2005-07, 2009-15), Montreal Alouettes (2008) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2016) before retiring. The native of Uxbridge, Ont., was a versatile pro, lining up as a fullback, tight end, defensive lineman and offensive lineman.

Keeping was Toronto's second-round pick, No. 18 overall, in the 2005 CFL draft out of Western. He won a Grey Cup with the Argos in 2012 and was named a league all-star the following season.

Keeping's decision comes with the CFL Players' Association holding its annual general meeting Thursday through March 1 in Las Vegas. Keon Raymond, a former CFL player, announced in November his intention to run for the union president's role.

"Jeff has been a tremendous leader for our union," Brian Ramsay, the CFLPA's executive director, said in a statement. "He has been uncompromising in his commitment to improving conditions for all players.

"He worked hard to create positive change and deliver a more accountable union that has earned the confidence of the membership. On behalf of the CFLPA and our members, I would like to thank Jeff for his dedication to the Association and wish him and his family the very best in the future."

In its statement, the CFLPA said Keeping "was instrumental in the elimination of full contact in practices yielding a significant 30 per cent reduction in player injuries." As president, the union added, "he envisioned a more powerful and resilient union by seeking key strategic partners and has been a driving force in the surging momentum of the The Academy which is in place to provide education, counselling and mentorship, health and wellness, internships and employment, professional certifications and more for CFLPA members."

Keeping, 39, has been CFLPA president since 2016 after being elected to the union executive as third vice-president in 2014. Keeping first became involved in the CFLPA as a player rep.

Keeping was involved directly in two collective bargaining sessions with the union, the last being a three-year deal that was reached with the CFL prior to the start of last season.

"I'm extremely proud of what we've been able to achieve as a Players' Association," Keeping said. "With people like (Ramsay), Art Vertlieb as general counsel, Ken Georgetti as our senior adviser, Rachel Rollo (manager of Association administration), Jason Langvee (CFLPA academy program manager) and Ian Sanderson (director of membership administration) in our office, these are the people who've made purposeful decisions and spent their lives driving our mission forward.

"But I can't say enough about our players, who are great people, great athletes who also have great character. I'll always be passionate about the league, our fans, our game and the players. It's been such a huge part of my life that it will always have a place in my heart."

Regrets, Keeping said, have been few.

"I try to not live with a whole lot of regrets," he said. "We always tried to do right by the guys.

"You can't please everybody but we made decisions based on what was best for the group and that's the way we've been able to be successful. I'm just really proud and humbled to have had the opportunity to be in the position and been able to create and prolong these relationships with the guys."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2020.


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