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Enjoy 2018, CFL Fans. 2019 Will be Messy

Published: Thursday, Feb 8th 2018, 12:02pm

by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)

We all love the game of football and the CFL. Soccer is known as “the beautiful game”, but to me, football is the true beautiful game. However, the business side of the game is ugly and it’s about to get uglier. We’ve recently seen a few players from the Toronto Argonauts (James Wilder Jr. and Victor Butler) call out their team and the league for not letting them out of their contracts to try the NFL and judging by the reaction that this has gotten online from players and fans alike, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie came out with a statement on February 1 and said that they (the league) expect the players to honour their full contracts and then if NFL opportunities arise, then they can take their shot, but the CFL doesn’t approve of any team releasing a player under contract to sign in the NFL with the side deal to come back.

The BC Lions were fined for releasing LB Micah Awe, but the Riders have recently released Kacy Rodgers, so what gives? Well, Awe still had another year on his contract (and we assume he had a handshake deal with the Lions that he will come back to them if his NFL tryout doesn’t work) and Rodgers was a pending free agent. So while they are somewhat similar, they are different altogether.

I’m having a hard time trying to pick sides when it comes to players vs. league/team because there are so many factors that go into this whole situation and that includes pros and cons for both sides.

First, I totally understand the league not wanting to lose their players. The league wants to protect their investment and help build their brand with the players. But it’s hard to build that brand when players only stay here for a year or two and go back down south again.

But why the league doesn’t want “side deals” with players that teams make that would bring the player back to their CFL team in the event of a failed NFL tryout is beyond me. It only shows loyalty to the player and ultimately that is better in the long run for the league. The player gets some security as does the team. It’s win-win to me.

The players know (or at least, they SHOULD know) what they are getting into when signing a contract with the CFL. If they don’t, their agent should do a better job of explaining things. There is no more option year in the contracts anymore, so I do think the players should honour the contract that they signed in the first place. BUT, I have absolutely no issue with the player asking for a release to try the NFL. Much like in any other job, a good employer will never prevent their employee from bettering themselves. Not only does it help the employee, but the employer can turn around and say that we made that person a star and it can help them attract new talent.

My issue with the league telling the players to honour their contracts is that the teams don’t honour contracts themselves. Countless times we see players cut before a roster bonus is due, hurting the player financially, most recently Adarius Bowman in Edmonton. Pretty hypocritical if you ask me, however that’s the nasty side of the business in a salary cap world.

On the players side of things, I will never fault a player for wanting to do better for personal gain. I have zero issues with a player wanting to be released to try the NFL and make way more than he could in the CFL, nor do I have an issue with a player asking the team to renegotiate his current deal. Player careers are short and they need to do what’s best for them and their families.

The simple thing to do is to raise the salary cap in next years’ CBA negotiations, however negotiations are never that simple. While we should see some raise to the cap, where that money goes is anyone’s guess. Do they raise the league minimum for players? If not, will teams continue to pay league minimum for Americans and overpay for Canadian players simply because of the ratio? Will the American players have any representation in these negotiations that speaks specifically for new American CFLers? Will they bring the option year back that will allow players to go to the NFL while still “property” of a CFL team?

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has a lot on his plate in this next union deal and as we’ve seen, players are starting to speak up more than they ever have. And from what I’ve seen, fans are taking the side of the players on this. We very well could be seeing a labour strike and perhaps a shortened season in 2019 if things continue to trend the way they have. Ambrosie will be in Regina on Saturday afternoon for his Town Hall tour and I’m sure this will come up at some point.

The one thing we know is this: The league holds all the cards. They have all the leverage, especially if there is very little to no representation for American players in the Players Association. But as long as players keep standing up and voicing their thoughts, this isn’t going to go away and next year’s offseason will be messy.

Enjoy the ride now, things will get bumpy in 2019.


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