Canadian Football League players “stuck in limbo”
If Canadian Football League teams can’t or won’t pay players more than 33 per cent of their salaries for a six-game season, only the blame game will be played this year.
Players have called the offer unfair and insulting; and there are football fans who have been publicly sympathetic to those opinions. There are also people who side with league ownership because their math seems to make sense. Play a third of a season, cash a third of a paycheque.
But CFL players are paid for “activities related to football,” according to the standard player contract, and those workouts are ongoing.
“It does say that we get paid after games, so that’s our payment schedule. But so much more goes into preparing for a season than just playing 18 games,” said Ottawa Redblacks running back Brendan Gillanders. “That’s 18 of 365 days. It’s so frustrating from that standpoint because we’re not given any credit whatsoever for what we have to do year-round.
“Getting ready for a football season is a full-time job. Don’t kid yourself.
“And, what’s even more frustrating, because everything is stuck in limbo, they’re still telling us to prepare like there is a season.”
Players will not be paid until and unless there is a season. There won’t be a season if the CFL doesn’t improve its offer on player compensation, because the CFLPA will not approve a collective bargaining agreement that pro-rates salaries to 33 per cent. And the CFL won’t improve its offer on a compensation package, which includes report and pass bonuses, pension contributions and per diems, in the absence of funding from the federal government.
While a three-sided stalemate like that is frustrating enough, the last straw for Gillanders on Tuesday was something that he normally would have welcomed.
“What set me off today was the CFL on social media promoting player workout videos. They just don’t get it. It’s disrespectful. We’re doing that for free right now.”
The CFL’s Twitter feed featured a “Workout content thread from around the league,” and it looked very much like professional football players engaged in unpaid professional football activities.
Unfortunately for all involved, it appears there weren’t any other CFL activities of note on Tuesday. A source said the league and the CFL Players Association did not conduct negotiations on an amended CBA, despite the fact that many issues, financial and otherwise, remain unresolved. The league cancelled Friday’s bargaining session and there wasn’t one on Monday, either.
The CFL will not comment officially on the state of negotiations. It seems likely that without definitive word from Ottawa on the status of the league’s request for about $40 million in financial aid, the CFL doesn’t see the point of bargaining with the players around the edges of an agreement when so much hinges on the central financial piece. And indeed, the message from Ottawa on Tuesday was the same as it had been on Monday.
“The government is still examining the CFL’s request for financial assistance and any new information will be shared in due course,” said Camille Gagne, press secretary for the office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Saskatchewan’s Brett Lauther said last weekend that he and other player reps were told to expect news from the government by Wednesday. So it appears the CFL and CFLPA are in a holding pattern for at least another day.
If the government ultimately decides not to fund CFL activities of any kind this year, the fallout will surely be uncomfortable for league employees. Most coaches are collecting 80 per cent of their salaries, but have no idea what happens in the absence of any games. Some CFL head office staff are already working reduced schedules while collecting just 40 per cent of their salaries. Do they get furloughed entirely? What happens to team employees who were laid off pending a season?
As for the players, they would finally be told to do something else until 2021, a message that would not have been delivered in a timely enough fashion for Gillanders and many others.
“Right now there are five months left in the year and the CFL has essentially crippled any income potential we had,” he said. “So just delaying it without officially suspending the season is extremely detrimental for the players.
“It’s disappointing. When everything is going well and we’re making people money then they love us, and when it comes to situations like these, you just kind of get tossed aside.”