After everything the CFL has been through in recent years, the last thing it needs is a work stoppage.
But that’s exactly what the league has on its hands as the players have officially gone on strike for the first time since 1974.
Training camp was supposed to open across the league on Sunday, but instead, seven of the nine clubs — including the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — cancelled practice. The only teams that didn’t were the Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders due to Alberta’s labour laws, but they’re expected to get over that hurdle and sit out like everyone else in the coming days.
After rejecting the CFL’s latest CBA proposal on Saturday, the CFLPA instructed players to not report to camp. The old CBA expired on Sunday and despite 16 hours of meetings on Friday, the two sides failed to agree on a new deal.
“A players strike in the CFL? God, I’m sick to my stomach. Shame on both sides for letting it come to this,” wrote the former legendary radio voice of the Blue Bombers, Bob Irving, on Twitter.
The Blue and Gold were supposed to hit the University of Manitoba turf field at 9 a.m. A large group of players ended up showing up a few hours later to train without any coaches and several of them were repping CFLPA shirts. The Bombers, whose CFLPA rep is linebacker Adam Bighill, plan to do some picketing at IG Field soon and they encourage fans to join in.
On the surface, the CFL’s recent offer doesn’t seem half bad, but the players are saying it’s nowhere near as good as it seems. One of the main sticking points is the PA feels feel the proposed revenue sharing model lacks transparency. The players asked for auditors to validate revenue, but the CFL wouldn’t agree to that. Another issue they have is the 12 padded practices that the league is asking for as the players have some health and safety concerns regarding that. The CFL proposed a seven-year agreement, but the PA wants nothing longer than five years with added flexibility.
The CFL and commissioner Randy Ambrosie shared their last offer on social media on Saturday which has not gone over well with players as they believe it was done to sway the public opinion and that it doesn’t fairly depict the whole situation. Before getting into all the details of the offer, Ambrosie started with this letter:
Dear CFL Players:
This document summarizes the CFL’s offer that was presented to the union today, for your consideration.
It’s designed to build a true partnership with you, our talented, hard working, community minded CFL players.
It increases total player compensation by more than $24 million over the term of the agreement – plus an opportunity to share in revenue increases as we successfully work together to grow the league.
It protects jobs for Canadian players, the bedrock of the CFL.
It offers partially guaranteed contracts, for the first time in our league’s history.
It recognizes the contribution of veteran Americans, with a new opportunity to extend their careers with their team, without restricting free agency in any way.
It includes two increases in the league’s minimum salary.
It provides certainty and stability, with a 7-year-term.
Another point of contention in the offer is the idea that teams could choose one American player (non-quarterback) with four or more years in the CFL or one that has played with the same team for at least three years and count them as a Nationalized American. This one veteran American would count as a National on the roster and be grouped with the 20-21 Canadians on each team who also count as Nationals. To summarize, it means teams could use an American with three or more years of CFL experience as one of their seven National starters.
“Nationalizing a tenured American player is a good idea, but not at the expense of a Canadian starter,” said former Bombers defensive lineman Doug Brown on Twitter. “So make it eight Nationals per team, instead of reducing another “bedrock” of the CFL. Other than that, I’d be in favour of this deal.”
There are no current plans for the two sides to resume talks.
For the 2022 schedule to go as plan, they’ll need to figure out a new CBA soon as the Bombers are slated to open the preseason on May 23 at Mosaic Stadium against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Bombers are scheduled to play the Ottawa Redblacks inWeek 1 at home on June 10.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.