CFL issues statement on contracts, threatens Lions with fine

In the wake of public statements from Victor Butler and James Wilder Jr. and the release of Micah Awe by the B.C. Lions, the CFL has issued a statement from commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

Here is the statement in full:

“There has been a lot of commentary lately about the status of CFL players who wish to pursue potential NFL opportunities halfway through their first standard CFL contract (which spans a first year and a second year, which kicks in at the option of the team). I want to spell out where the CFL stands:

Our rules and procedures are clear. Players are required to honour their contracts as they are registered with the league. In two recent cases that have garnered media attention, the Toronto Argonauts have honoured these rules and procedures as they should.

Teams are not allowed to make side deals with players entering the league, either in unregistered written contracts or in verbal agreements, which promise a player he will be released upon request after one year or which bind him to subsequently return to the same CFL club should he not secure employment in the NFL. Recently, one of our teams announced they had released a player halfway through his first CFL contract so he can pursue NFL opportunities. The CFL has discerned this action was a product of such a side agreement and the team faces a heavy fine for not following our rules and procedures.

Some people refer to an NFL window which would allow a player to leave after the first year of his first CFL contract. Such a window does not exist. It has not been in place or in practice since 2012, when it was phased out.

We have the utmost respect for our players, their careers and their ambitions. Like any league, we also expect them to respect their contractual obligations as our teams will respect theirs.

We remain open to change. I am currently on a listening tour of CFL cities, meeting with football operations for each team as well as fans in every market, looking for ideas that will make for the best game and our strongest league.

It is too late in the calendar year to fairly amend this rule but if a better approach to this issue – or any issue, for that matter – is available, we will move forward with it. There are differing views on this issue within our league and I look forward to hearing all sides of the debate as well as from people with innovative new ideas.

As always, I thank our players for their tremendous efforts on and off the field, our fans for making all we do possible and the media for their continuing interest and storytelling.“

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46 Comments on CFL issues statement on contracts, threatens Lions with fine

  1. Commissioner has got this wrong … he should sit down with the Player’s Association and reinstate a window retroactively. Players that exercise the window option remain bound by their CFL contract … it is “suspended and extended” … Player is not released. If the Player does not make it with the NFL, then the CFL team retains his rights under the original contract terms.

    More good players will take a one year risk in the CFL if they believe that they have not thrown away their chance at the NFL. In fact … fewer than 10% of those that exercise the NFL window will actually make the team and perhaps 20% will make the practice roster. The rest will come back to the CFL.

    • Stephen Fisher // February 1, 2018 at 6:45 pm //

      Agreed. Shutting the NFL door on these players is bad policy, even if legally correct. We want to attract best players, not incense and exasperate them. 3

      • solara2000 // February 1, 2018 at 7:05 pm //

        Disagree. He has it exactly right. An organization that does not establish and concisely enforce rules/policies for all, places itself at risk of not having any moral or legal basis upon which to lean in the future.
        If the policy needs to change, then change it in an orderly fashion, not by the process of exception.

      • Disagree. If the rules need changing, then change them in an orderly fashion to take effect for alll teams at the same time. Don’t rationalize letting some teams have secret side deals. The league (the sum of nine teams) collectively set the rules, and all should abide by them until they change.

  2. This currently only works one way then. I understand both sides, especially in a short career, but organizations are not expected to honor contracts while players are.

    • Exactly right! From the CFL statement:
      “Like any league, we also expect them to respect their contractual obligations as our teams will respect theirs.”

      So why are so many players being released by teams the day before off season bonuses are due? Does Ambrosie think that teams are “respecting their (contracts)”? Sure doesn’t seem like it to me!

      • MoneyTeam // February 1, 2018 at 8:00 pm //

        It’s in the contract that the money isn’t guaranteed and they can be released at any time. So, they are honouring the contract. Players agree to this when signing.

  3. Why are the Lions the only ones being called out here? Because they were honest about it? How about the Riders and Jeff Knox? The Lions didn’t announce anything like, Awe will be back if he doesn’t make it. I get the part about side deals, but if you think Knox won’t be back with the Riders if he doesn’t make it, give your head a shake.

    • Jeff Knox was a free agent & was released only 2 weeks in advance of his free agency. Much different situation that Awe.

      • Tough. He was STILL under contract regardless of time left on it.

        • Zack Levi-Wrangler Wilder // February 2, 2018 at 5:56 am //

          Hilarious, Dave. You’re saying that the what the Riders did (letting a guy go 14 days early) who was under no obligation to ever play another snap with the team is the same as letting Awe go when he still had another full season on his contract?

          And you expect us not to treat you like a troll?

    • Rider fan // February 2, 2018 at 7:15 am //

      The riders just released Knox. The team did not hold a press conference. This is a technicality with B.C. no fine needs to be levied in my opinion.

  4. Albermarle // February 1, 2018 at 5:55 pm //

    The commish got it right, not honoring contracts makes the league look bush

  5. This has been going on for years, some general managers have this agreement to get good players up here. The CFl and Commissioner are standing up for those babies in Toronto again, because Bc and the Riders made the Agros look bad and the cfl can’t have that. More baby sitting the Argos.

  6. Commish HAD TO DO SOMETHING so every team is on the same playing field as far as contracts are concerned. If the club has the option they certainly can chose to not maintain that player by the appropriate date. Where the player may have that option then they can do the same thing at the END of the contract NOT weeks or months before it expires. Until a OFFICIAL CHANGE IS IN PLACE there has to be some sense of integrity in place.

    • They were already on the same playing field. They just made different choices.
      Noticed he is pretty hasty in reacting to things. He needs to stop and think.

  7. This just in….Wally Buono isn’t the pope or chancellor of the exchequer. Neither he nor Jones run the CFL contrary to popular belief…..hey look, Wally looks like a saint for letting some clown out of his two year commitment….. basically, these verbal side deal agreements allows him to sign people who otherwise wouldn’t sign….all against the rules. Ok I get it a small indiscretion. Well hell if this is ok, why not just open everything up, forget about the cap, the contract rules…everything else. At least then, other GMs would be able to compete with Lord Wally. Get with the program Wally!!!!

  8. Don’t be naive my friend!

  9. GrnRider…thanks for the clarification. Wasn’t aware of that.

  10. I agree with the Comm with regards to doing side deals and unwritten stips – this levels the playing field. However, the hipocrasy of teams being able to release a player at any time (minus injured) during a contract vs a player having to playing it out. I’m not sure where the line is drawn… Luke Tasker just tried out with the Jets yet technically he’s under contract with the Ticats until FA in a couple weeks… what’s the difference?

    • Zack Levi-Wrangler Wilder // February 2, 2018 at 5:59 am //

      Difference is Tasker will be a free agent in 14 days and Awe wouldn’t have been for 379 days.

      Huge difference.

  11. The pre 2012 window should be brought back as in 2020 the XFL could be a viable option for some talent to stay south and not bother with a two year CFL contract !

    • Zack Levi-Wrangler Wilder // February 2, 2018 at 6:00 am //

      Uh, no. If the old window is brought back, that will result in more guys who prove they can play pro ball leaving after one year.

  12. Good job Ambrosie. Contracts are legally binding and must be honored. If players can leave whenever they want then why have signed contracts in the first place?

  13. there should be a window for those very few who get selected to make millions in the NFL

    a player has a short period of time to be deemed employable in pro sports

    also….organizations are not expected to honor contracts while players are…..this is patently unfair and exploitive

    similar to many corporate employers insisting upon 2 to 4 weeks notice before quitting….yet they can make you clean out your desk at a moments notice

    don’t drop the ball on this one, Ambrosie

  14. Not a band wagon jumper // February 1, 2018 at 7:07 pm //

    Now he has to get the trashy teams who release players because of bonuses due. They have registered contracts. Why not release them 2 or 3 months ago and they will not look like cheapskates. This is as big as releasing players to go try out for the NFL. Contracts are one way, unless guaranteed, both sides know it. No class!

  15. Let’s be honest the fee players that have cried publicly about this were sitting on the couch with very few options left and obvious not the NFL or they wouldn’t be in this predicament. So they het looks from cfl the team likes what they see the team signs the player for the league minimum and they have a good camp ..a great season and now the NFL has taken notice so now they want out of their contract to persue their dream.. hahaha …listen people these players would have no dream to persue in the NFL if it wasn’t for the cfl giving them a chance so when you sign the deal honour it . And if you have a second great season they will still be looking at you . My guess I some of these players may not have a great second season and the NFL will be looking at the next guy !

  16. The commish is wrong. Good way to make sure we do not get good players coming up here.
    As someone at work said today, All we’ll get now are the Kevin Glenns for QBs.

    • Zack Levi-Wrangler Wilder // February 2, 2018 at 6:04 am //

      Commish is right. The league is governed by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. And it *must* be enforced by the league office. And if good players would rather work construction jobs for 60 hours a week rather than being a pro in the only league that will have them, then why are you concerned about them?

      And what “good” QBs would play in the CFL if there was only a 1 year commitment? Go ahead, name one.

      You can’t. You haven’t thought this through.

  17. Doesn’t it seem obvious that the CFL represented these player’s best shot? To get that shot, you sign an entry level contract for two years. What about tampering? This sounds like bluffing with a busted flush. “We’re interested in you kid, if you can break your contract?” Ranks right up there with often told lies like the cheque’s in the mail… This won’t hurt a bit!…. Lastly, why just BC? What about the green Riders?

  18. I see little benefit in forcing a player to play where he doesn’t want to be. If the guy isn’t happy,how good of a player and team mate will he be.

  19. CFL lover // February 1, 2018 at 8:43 pm //

    The hypocrisy of it all, players must honour their contracts says the Commish but teams can dump them at will with no consequence. And don’t give me the “they know what they’re signing” bs, there are no guaranteed contracts for players which is why bonus clauses need to be written in. And even then teams release players a day before said bonus should be paid out. No severance, no recourse, bye bye, and an average three or four year pro career, that’s if a guy doesn’t blow out his knee or worse before that.

  20. Provemewrong // February 1, 2018 at 9:49 pm //

    Ya know what. It is up to each team. Just like they can release a player during his contract, they can release a player to ‘pursue NFL options”. BC has done this before, and all teams can do this . OR, they can hold a player to his contract. This is a non issue. If a player wants to pout and sit a year to ‘ work construction’ fine. His choice. WHY is this being talked about???

  21. Blackhawk89 // February 1, 2018 at 9:55 pm //

    The lions should have just said we are releasing Awe in the best interest of the football club at this time. There’s no way for the league to prove they released him to pursue NFL options, nor could they ever prove a “verbal agreement ” to do so. Whatever Awe does after he is released isn’t the business of the league.

  22. Provemewrong // February 1, 2018 at 9:56 pm //

    The Comish should suck it up and let teams deal with this like any other contract issue. Hold out, sit a year. We agree to release you, no different than cutting you. THIS IS A NON ISSUE!!!

  23. Riderforlife // February 1, 2018 at 11:13 pm //

    Hey dashound why fine the riders Jeff Knox was a free agent let him go instead of signing him as well as lafrance was a free agent to he’s gone to

    • DashHound isn’t capable of rational thought. Don’t try to reason with the child.

    • Releasing Knox was no big deal. Releasing Elie Bouka was a different story. Personally I think the Riders and Lions did right by their players.

  24. I completely agree with the few previous posts that state our new commish has and will continue to jump the gun on decisions, instead of gather info suggestions and thinking things over as a whole.

  25. Contracts aside , I think those who leave the cfl to search the nfl for greener pastures should not be allowed to come back and play till the following year

  26. Big difference between something being legally right and morally right. Teams might have the legal right to release a player before having to pay them a bonus but it is not a very fair way to treat someone whom you expect to be “loyal” when it comes to staying with the team for a fixed amount of time. Just because the contract allows a team to do that does not make it right.

    I think Lebron James addressed this double standard very well recently when he said that teams who cut/trade players are “doing what is best for business” whereas a player who looks out for his own interests is has no loyalty and won’t honour his contract.

    BC did the right thing by releasing Awe, regardless of what the rules state. He was a great player for the Lions last year and very possibly would not have signed without the option to leave after 1 year. As others have said, giving players this option would likely increase the calibre of player that comes to the CFL earlier in their career. From a fan point of view, the league has high player turnover anyway and some of these 1 year players would return in the future and stay for longer.

  27. Why can’t something like in pro soccer be looked at? If I’m not mistaken, in those cases where a player is still under contract, the contract is purchased outright.

    In a case where the NFL is interested in a player under contract to the CFL, would the interested team buying it out not appease both the team and the player? $60k Canadian is about 100 season’s tickets where it isn’t a lot of money to an NFL team.

    At least then a team who is good at scouting and putting players in a situation where they can showcase their talents to garner interest get something in return for a player leaving a year early out of their contract.

    Just a thought.

  28. What is wrong with putting in 2 years in the CFL? Players put 4 years in college to pursue thier NFL dream. Patience is a virtue.

  29. Totally agree with the commish.
    IMO if they change the rules to let a player leave after the first season and they don’t make it in the NFL then they must sit out the remainder of the season and then play second year of contract after that or at the teams choice. Or the team can sit that player out then terminate the contract. Players MUST realize that THEY are signing contracts that are leagally binding.

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