CFL commissioner says players should work in the off-season

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says that CFL players should consider working in the off-season if they don’t like the money they’re making.

Ambrosie made the comments in an interview released on the league’s website after he issued a statement re-iterating the CFL’s commitment to two-year entry-level contracts in the wake of concerns raised by Toronto Argonauts James Wilder Jr. and Victor Butler last week.

Ambrosie was asked about compensation levels and said players earn bonus money in the playoffs before turning his attention to their off-season opportunities.

“The other thing to recognize is that at the end of the season our players are free to work and I frankly I encourage them to do that,” Ambrosie said.

“That’s how I built my career. I worked during the season as well but I worked full-time in the off-season and I would encourage our guys to do that, to start building an opportunity for their after-football life which comes up more quickly than you would think when you’re in the game.

“You’re a perfectly healthy, vibrant player and then it all takes one injury.”

Ambrosie played nine years for three CFL teams before going on to a career in financial services and management.

According to Ambrosie, the league has discussed changing the two-year entry-level contract but decided against it.

“It’s too late for this season. We did talk about this at our league meetings back in January and our GMs decided that they didn’t feel that it was the right time to change it,” he said. “The window to change the rule for this year has passed but that doesn’t mean it has to stay closed forever.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1457 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

33 Comments on CFL commissioner says players should work in the off-season

  1. This isn’t surprising coming from “the employer” in this empoyment relationship. That said, placing the onus on the player in the event of a career ending injury is unfair. This is an employment relationship where the players are likely going to be injured at “work”. Players should be compensated accordingly and the employer should also be responsible for the players in the unfortunate event of an injury.

    I am sure the CFLPA will have a lot to say about these recent comments by the commissioner.

    • Billinburligton // February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm //

      This is where serious discussion needs to happen within government about workplace safety insurance. Most employees are covered but not professional sports players as far as I know.

      Given the CFL is part of the cultural fabric of Canada, governments should step up and support the players as workers just like any other business.

      • Couldn’t agree more, Bill.

      • I imagine that with the prevalence of injury of one kind or another in professional sports, the premiums for disability insurance would be insane.

      • MoneyTeam // February 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm //

        I know nothing about this, so serious question here. But wouldnt workers comp be incredibly expensive/not possible to get given the inherent danger of the sport? Extreme example, but if my job was to stand on a golf course during a lightning storm and hold my 9 iron in the air, surely nobody would insure me in case I got hurt. Its really risky. Also, if players get hurt, their “insurance” is they can’t get cut and salary is paid in full, no? Whereas anyone healthy can be released whenever.

  2. New commish quickly showing his business side and will leave the players behind. Get rid of this league.

  3. This might be where he loses me.

  4. Bleeding Green // February 2, 2018 at 12:33 pm //

    Oops and he was doing so well…

  5. What is wrong with working in the off season. I’m not sure what percentage of players have other gigs but I would think it’s fairly high. From financial planners to personal trainers. Telling players not to work in the off season would be sending the wrong message and encouraging poverty after thier playing days are over. There are enough stories out there of former players in every sport that end thier playing days broke and no plan. Keep in mind that its only the entry level contracts that are really low and that the majority of US born players have had some NFL experience of some sort and have made some money. I wouldn’t mind the NFL window to come back for those players in thier rookie contract and I definitly would like to see teams having to pay bonuses they’ve committed to. Otherwise let the market determine the salaries.

    • Took the thoughts right out of my head! Echoed your sentiments below, writing simultaneously obviously haha.

    • . Otherwise let the market determine the salaries…. So you support abolishing the ratio because that is market tampering

  6. Blackhawk89 // February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm //

    Yeah why don’t theses guys put their college degrees to use lol

  7. Being a professional athlete has now become a full time job. The training these players must endure to stay on top of their games and keep their jobs isn’t an option like it may have been when Ambrosie played. I think his comments were a little dated. I am sure many players DO work in the off-season, in fact I know they do, but their focus is football and being a professional. That requires a year long commitment.

    • Without a doubt it takes a lot of effort in the offseason to stay in shape, eat right, etc. And yes many do work in the offseason to get by financially etc. But that’s the requirement of being a (good) pro football player and the choice they make. If its their dream to play and they cant juggle the rigours off offseason training while also working, then they dont have to play pro football anymore. Or they could quit their job. Some guys can do it and some cant. If they’re given the right opportunity then it all comes down to priorities and choices in my mind. As a fan I’d love these guys to make more money. Its a tough job and they deserve it. We’d also attract more talent and players would stick around longer but I also know financially it’s not feasible at the moment.

    • Brian Wawryshn is right on two counts:
      1. The Commissioner is kind of in another era retiring in ’93.
      2. Players today are faster, stronger, fitter and they see keeping in football a full time job.

      The CFL in the days when players would come to training camp to get in shape back in the late 50s and 60s and in some places in the 70s were an era where the CFL offered players a chance to work part time in season and full time off season.

      It was a GOLDEN ERA where businesses when the CFL was top of mind in many markets – not the NHL. It was the days where Hockey Night in Canada came on 5 pm on CBC and you got mostly a Leafs or Habs game as it was a 6 team league.
      Major corporations and CEOs loved the notoriety of having a CFL player on staff and careers were developed.

      What would have been more helpful is the Commissioner was looking to differentiate itself by exploring options how they can help players develop future careers.

      Teams now practice mid day – prime working hours – in season and teams vote on times. Even when practices were to start at 4 pm local Canadian players would be outvoted to start earlier. I might be short on the details but I know as I had two CFL players on my staff and that was their complaint.

      It’d be more helpful if the owners rep – the Commissioner – addressed who they can raise minimum contracts.

  8. He makes a good point. I think the crux of his comments here are “offseason work prepares you for life after football, which could come much sooner than expected”. How many times have we heard stories about players going bankrupt post-career, and struggling to scrape by? More than enough. Case in point – Victor Butler. Dude played 7 years in the NFL, racked up easily a few million USD at minimum, and essentially says he can’t pay rent in Toronto for 6 moths so he needs more money from the Argos. Like, that is pathetic. If thats not a lie on his part then its absolute piss poor financial management, and its on him because he didnt learn, invest, and he hasnt prepared himself for the next step. Other players in the league can learn from this exact case.

    This all said, and I think the NFL does this a bit, but this would be a good time to intro a program for players to talk about this exact issue – post football career and preparation for moving on. Bringing in business who will hire CFL players in the off season, financial management, post-grad schools offering programs they can complete when they’re done, etc. It’ll cost money but surely it can’t be that expensive. Get the CFLPA to pitch on it, think they would like the idea as well.

  9. solara2000 // February 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm //

    Puleeeze! Somebody offers you a job for 6 months and yes there are risks by virtue of the nature if the work.
    And sometimes those risks can come true and bring an end to that type of work. Also the projected length of time you could reasonably expect to do this work would probably be less than 5-6 years 9 in some of the roles in this workplace could be longer but could also be shorter. And each successive year you have to compete for that job with other people like you with similar skill sets, some better, some the same and some not as good. But it’s what you want to do and you accept that 6 month job. Nowhere in the conversations around the job offer was there any discussion of limitations that prevented you from either working, continuing your education the non-working 6 months or just screwing around. The only advice to you was to make sure each year you came bak to this particular workplace, ready and able to compete for that job. So stay in shape. I see people in gyms, people running, walking, jogging and a host of other activities to help them stay ‘in shape’ so this should not be deemed out of the ordinary for you and your colleagues who are 20-somethings in peak physical condition.
    So RA, great advice and for those who heed it, there are any of role models in your line of this special 6 month work for you to emulate who have combined both building careers, building lives.

  10. so why are we getting on @JManziel2 case for his entrepreneurship clothing line he is taking to NYC for fashion week? He is lining up his offseason job already. @KingJames has an off-season movie and tv production company. Go Johnnie Entrepreneur go!

  11. Laughing at the view of “being a player is a full-time”. What about the average person who works 2 may be 3 jobs to make ends meet for their family today? Why is it okay for the average person but not a “athlete”. Average people have to take extra education to better themselves, is that not the same as the “athlete” who has to hit the gym to better themselves? Average person working at minimum wage job gets hit by a bus and loses their job, they may get some pay but eventually it runs out. Average person works at a place for 10 years, gets laid off. they may or may not get a payout and can only qualify for unemployment for so long then that is gone. Quit making “Athlete”s out to be something higher than anyone else. They just like us losing a job should have to find something else to do. Don’t like what is being offer then move on to something else.

  12. So if the comments that I have read are true, and if I am interpreting the messages correctly, a current player is NOT supposed to career plan or do anything in the off-season – at all. I quote from a source “According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 78% of National Football League (NFL) players are either bankrupt or are under financial stress within two years of retirement” (yes, Google this info, you’d be surprised). These guys make astronomically more than CFL players and their lives are a mess. If you read between the lines Ambrosie is not off base with his comments. If players are using their education properly and actively working on a post-football career the transition to retirement is much easier. Yes, that transition can be very sudden with an injury. Post-football life is indeed very rough for many pro football athletes. There was a time not too long ago when CFL players would work full time AND play football simultaneously. Seems insane for anyone now, but now in modern times what is so insane about making money and working on a career when the season is over???

  13. I see nothing wrong with what he said and couldn’t agree more.

  14. How bout providing jobs for the players in the off season. How many companies will hire a guy for 5 months. On top of that you expect the player to train to put a good product on the field and find the time in the day to work. I believe they should work but they do need help getting jobs that allow them to be ready for the season

  15. Instead of bashing players why not help them. You act like these guys make millions of dollars. These players need help in order to keep the game alive

  16. fannotacoach // February 2, 2018 at 5:49 pm //

    The over simplified answer to the problem like so many in today’s society is education. I may be wrong but believe that many pro athletes got their “education” by the skin of their teeth in order to play their sport. What the need to do is find what they want to do post sport and up their education accordingly. Kids in high school have to look ahead and school themselves for either secondary education or a career in construction for example. These guys are not that far out of high school or university that the same common sense rules should apply. Something the CFL could look at would be career counseling. In the end they however chose sport over a safer longer career for less money so suck it up!

  17. Just raised the minimum wage. Flip burgers for 6 months and football for 6. Relive your college days

  18. Sounds like the advice a wise father would give to his son.

  19. Way to go commissioner……tell em how it is. Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty and you need someone with balls to stand front. Unlike our politicians now a days!!!

  20. Way to give the CFL a veneer of professionalism. “Go get a second job, you bums.”
    Sounds like my Dad when I was a teenager. Maybe they can work out some paper routes, for the worst paid CFL players?

  21. Edward Leslie // February 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm //

    Perfect off season jobs:
    Tommie Campbell : Pharmaceutical sales
    Kevin Glenn : Travelling salesman
    Micah Awe : Crash test dummy
    Duron Carter : Tourism board Saskatchewan
    Odell Willis : Mayor of an actual town
    Ricky Ray : Potato chip delivery
    (Maybe he misses it?)
    Victor Butler : Public Relations
    Ricky Foley : Tattoo artist
    Zach Collaros : OPA! Greek restaurant
    Johnny Manziel : He’s got an “off season” job

  22. CflFan037 // February 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm //

    This confirms that the CFL is a glorified semi-pro league. A league full of regular job working joe blows, playing a game for extra spending money. Its no wonder NOBODY down south takes our league seriously. Its why even Canadian players aren’t even focusing and making goals to play in CFL. The CFL is a last chance option for every football player in North America.

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