The Canadian Football League is just nine days away from its self-imposed deadline to figure out a way to play in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But with little evidence to suggest its reached the proposed goal of July 23, players are once again lashing out towards the league for what they consider to be the latest example in a steady pattern of unfair treatment.
“Just what I thought…” started a tweet by Tony Washington, an American left tackle for the Montreal Alouettes, Tuesday afternoon. “CFL waited till the last min to give us a deadline to decide on a bulls–t return to play scenario and when we don’t agree it’s our fault!”
The message by Washington, who has played nine seasons and for five teams in the CFL, created a notable buzz among other players in the league, all of whom shared in his frustration. Almondo Sewell, another nine-year veteran with the Edmonton Eskimos, took the opportunity to warn other players to do their due diligence before agreeing to terms with the CFL on a return-to-play plan for this season.
“If I have to risk my life with this COVID-19 and stay in a hotel for 105 days I want my money guaranteed and more than 33%,” Sewell tweeted. “That’s a joke if y’all vote to play for this.”
The comments by Washington and Sewell were regarding an initial proposal the CFL presented last month as a way to begin negotiations with the CFLPA. In what was the only proposal submitted by the league so far, the CFL stated players would only get paid for the games they played and no more (though a small percentage of players have received off-season bonuses).
Tuesday’s dialogue was representative of a growing frustration among players. With just more than a week before the league’s deadline, it’s becoming more and more likely that the 2020 campaign will be cancelled. And while players have been asking for updates, they’ve been met with mostly silence from the CFL.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie still has a lot to achieve before July 23. Besides establishing a revised collective bargaining agreement for this season, the CFL and CFLPA also have to agree on a new CBA for next year, too.
Talks between the CFL and CFLPA have progressed in recent weeks. The current goal is to have a six-game season, beginning no sooner than the first week of September, and an eight-team playoff.
Another sizable obstacle to playing this year is in obtaining money from the federal government. The CFL has seen a majority of its revenue vanish since the emergence of the coronavirus and with fans unlikely to attend games this season due to health concerns — a damning reality for a gate-driven league such as the CFL — a massive injection of financial aid is imperative to pull off a shortened season.
The CFL is seeking $42.5 million, which is a significant amount of money but much less than what they had asked for months earlier. In April, the CFL requested the federal government provide as much as $150 million in aid in the event of a lost season.
At the time, Ambrosie was criticized by a House of Commons panel for not providing a detailed outline of how he planned to spend the money and for not including the players in his request. The most recent plan is reported to be a much more detailed proposal, with any money granted to be used to pay for players’ salaries and to cover the added costs of playing a COVID-19-affected campaign.
That brings us to a third roadblock: finding a place to play. If the CFL does resume in 2020, games will be played in a designated hub city.
The current frontrunner for a hub city is Winnipeg, though other cities are also being considered. Wade Miller, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has been working closely with Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, to figure out a way to bring three-down football to the River City.
Talks have included nailing down the various logistical concerns, including housing for players, food services and practice facilities.
Winnipeg is an ideal location for a hub city given how well it’s handled the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, the province had just five active cases. But with half of the CFL’s players coming from the U.S., where the coronavirus continues to spiral out of control in some states, there’s a lot to think about before signing off on a plan.
On Monday, Roussin was non-committal to having Winnipeg become the CFL’s landing spot. He told reporters in a conference call that at this point he didn’t know what would need to occur to approve Winnipeg as a hub city.
“I don’t have any specifics on that. Public health has been involved and has been reviewing some plans on what that could look like, but we don’t have anything finalized yet,” Roussin said.
“For public health, the biggest issue is the protection of Manitobans, so we need to assure that whatever the plans are it’s not going to put the risk of transmission or importation of this virus on the backs of Manitobans. And so, there are a number of strategies that can achieve that, I believe. We’re looking at things and probably going to have more of an update on that in the near future.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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