Editor’s note: In the wake of CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s statements last week on the league’s contract rules and his assertion that players should get a job in the off-season, we asked a current CFL player for his reaction. Out of concern for his job security, he has requested to remain anonymous.
By A CFL Player
When Randy Ambrosie was named the CFL’s new commissioner last season, there was a sense of optimism among the players. Who better than to bridge the gap between the players and the league on hotly contested issues than a former player? Surely somebody who was in our shoes would appreciate our current position: he was one of us.
Recent comments from Ambrosie indicate how far removed he is from his playing days. Let’s start with his assertion that players should work during the offseason, something he did so during his nine years in the league. Back in those days, players used training camp to get in shape and they were not expected to be ready to play a game less than a week after the start of camp. The league was not nearly as competitive, either.
Fun fact: some players would actually smoke in between and after practices and during games in the locker rooms. Seriously.
Show me a player who doesn’t commit to training full-time in the offseason and I’ll show you a player who is about to lose his job to somebody who did. That is the reality of today’s CFL. It’s that competitive and it’s also why the on-field product improves year after year.
Your best case scenario as a player is to minimize the dip in your savings as you train by working part-time with a very understanding employer… or one that doesn’t know how to use Google and fails to realize they’re about to lose you in a few months time.
Ambrosie’s comments on both players and teams alike honouring their contracts could not have been more tone-deaf in light of recent events. James Wilder Jr., the league’s rookie of the year, and Victor Butler, one of the league’s elite defensive players, both spoke publicly to their frustrations about not being released to pursue employment opportunities in the NFL. Shame on them, they have no right… wait. B.C. Lion Micah Awe was just granted his release by his club. Might have Wilder and Butler actually had those deals in place with former Toronto GM Jim Barker? Maybe this is how things work? (Popp assuming somebody else’s handshake deal is another discussion entirely.)
But clubs always honour their contractual obligations, right? Just ask Kienan LaFrance who was released hours before his off-season roster payment was due. Or Darian Durant. Or Adarius Bowman. Or… I get that the commissioner’s job is to protect the clubs but his statement was laughable for those with a clue. You can’t have it both ways.
If you are still sold on the former-player commissioner, ask yourself how players have benefited from his tenure to date? Does extending the season by a week help players by demanding they stay a week longer away from home without pay? Is it safe for players to practice all week without pads, then go into a game performing techniques they cannot develop properly during the week? Did he step in to overrule former commissioner Jeffrey Orridge’s decision to halt all offseason payments in 2019 – a manoeuvre clearly designed to put pressure on the players’ union despite a valid CBA in place?
Make no mistake about it, nobody should be surprised by these actions and statements. Randy Ambrosie has a commitment to protect the league’s interests, nothing more. That’s his job and clearly his honeymoon phase with the players, such as it was, is over. His status as a former player has proven to carry zero benefit for the current ones after all.
Even worse, his oft-repeated statements referencing his playing days and appreciating the players as the league’s greatest asset serve only to shamelessly pander to those still paying attention.