Riders' legend, former CFLPA president George Reed to league and players: "Have a fistfight" but do it behind closed doors
In times of crisis, we can always look to our elders for guidance.
With the CFL and CFLPA still embroiled in the crisis of negotiation for a COVID shortened season, CTV’s Claire Hanna sat down with 80-year old George Reed to discuss football and his recovery from back surgery.
Reed is considered one of the greatest players in CFL history, is a member of the Order of Canada and was a pillar in the players’ union for over two decades. When asked about the current labour situation, Reed had some interesting insight.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I think they put too much in the media,” said Reed. “I think if you sat down at a table and you worked things out, and if you can’t work things out today, you agree to meet tomorrow or next week and work on the issues. It seems like now, everybody wants to showboat too much, to show which side is right, which side is wrong.”
He stressed the importance of keeping the business negotiations private and separating it from any perceived personal slights.
“I think you go behind closed doors, you work it out. You have a fistfight if you have to have it,” he says. “When you leave a room, you shake hands and say ‘I’ll see you in three years and we’ll go through this again’.”
Reed admits some responsibility for creating players’ higher expectation, as progress under his leadership makes the minimal pay, lack of resources and limited rest time he experienced as a player totally unfamiliar to today’s CFL athlete. He’s sympathetic to their desire for better conditions.
“I probably caused some of it, because I was the one that pushed for a lot of it with the Players Association. I was President for a long time,” Reed says in reference to his dual stints as CFLPA President, from 1972-1981 and again from 1986-1993.
“I pushed for changes. I can remember guys making $2,000-$3,000 in a season. When I became President I pushed and got that changed so at least the guys were making $11,000 was the minimum. They took advantage of some of the guys.”
Reed misses going to games and being in the stadium, something that remains a very important social event for the legend turned die-hard Riders’ fan. The man with 134 career rushing touchdowns shares the same sentiment as many of those who care deeply about Canadian football.
“I wish they’d make up their minds whether we’re going to have a football season or not so I can set my mind to it,” he say.
“If we have to play with no people in the stands go ahead and do that, but let’s get going so we can get ready for 2021.”
That decision is expected to come sooner rather than later, with July 31st set as the drop dead date for a CFL season and both sides still lacking clarity on government financial assistance.
Here’s hoping George Reed won’t wind up disappointed.