Solomon Elimimian to the CFL: players won’t ‘shut up and play football’

Solomon Elimimian is known for being a hard hitter on the field and the 2014 MOP delivered a strong message to the CFL’s bargaining committee after the league unilaterally decided to delay collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

“We want to have a partnership, we want to grow the CFL, we do, but the same status quo, shut up and do your job or shut up and play football, we’re not having it no more. It’s important that everybody understands that, a lot of veterans do understand that,” Elimimian said.

“The league needs to understand that status quo is not going to happen as it has in the past, we’re not going for it, we want to be treated as partners. And that’s with everything they want to do, whether it’s 2.0, whether it’s rules and health and safety, we demand to have a seat at the table and control our best moves. And actually bring some thoughtful ideas to the table. The league needs to understand that and that needs to change.”

CBA discussions officially began on March 11-12. Following the opening of talks there were four other rounds of two day stints where the two sides got together in either Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Hitting the pause button on meetings could be viewed as a negotiation tactic from the league.

“I don’t see it as a positive strategy on their part. All it does from a players’ aspect, as an active player, is just keep looking at the league in distrust. What is more important than getting a deal done for the players and for the fans? Whatever strategy they have or if it is a strategy you have to ask them. But our priority has always been clear: No. 1 is getting a deal done,” Elimimian said.

“There is a lot of active players on the negotiating committee and we have to juggle a lot of different things and mainly getting ready for the season. On some days I’m training two, three times a day just to catch up with the fact that we’re putting all our attention on bargaining and on getting a fair deal for the players. That’s my priority, that’s our priority and we want the league to show the same priorities that we have.”

The players’ union notified all of its members by email about the league’s choice to put off talks until April 29. The current CBA expires on May 18, ending a five-year agreement that was ratified on June 13, 2014 – nearly a month after the original deadline. Elimimian has played nine years in the CFL, named a league all-star four times, and remembers well what happened with the last CBA, a five-year agreement that was ratified on June 13, 2014.

“There’s still a lot of distrust from the last CBA we signed. Guys who were around, older guys, understand that the last CBA that we signed probably wasn’t the best thing in our favour,” Elimimian said.

“There’s things that they’ve done subsequently since that, the big thing I mentioned was withholding bonuses. You talk about fair treatment, you talk about good faith negotiations, and when they did that, they once again reminded us that they didn’t have the same intentions as we have and that’s partnership.”

The league office issued a directive to the all teams in December 2017 instructing them not to pay signing bonuses, roster bonuses and report and pass bonuses starting Jan. 1, 2019. Contracts signed from that point forward had the required language included: players won’t get the money until the CBA is ratified.

The CFLPA asked the league to rescind the directive, but were denied, even though it was former league boss Jeffrey Orridge who issued the directive, current commissioner Randy Ambrosie upheld it.

“I feel like both sides are trying to get over some distrust, it all started with withholding the bonuses. You talk about good faith and, in my opinion, when you withhold bonuses and some would say try to starve the players, that’s not, in my opinion, building good trust,” Elimimian said.

“When the league did that it started off rough for a lot of players and it’s frustrating. Being told by the league that they’re not available to meet the next couple weeks as a player, what’s more important than getting a deal done? We want to reinforce and everybody to know that we are willing to meet, we want to meet, we actually want to meet more than we have been meeting, so that’s the frustrating part.”

Despite being just five weeks out from when training camps are supposed to open, and by the time the league and CFLPA potentially meet again in late April the window will have shrunk to two-and-a-half weeks, Elimimian believes there is still enough time to come to an agreement.

“I want to emphasize when you get a deal done it’s both sides working together. It can’t be us banging on their door and saying we want to negotiate and get a deal done. It has to be reciprocated in the same fashion. For them telling us that we won’t be meeting the next two weeks for whatever parties they have set aside that’s frustrating but I’m excited because I feel like we prepared for this,” Elimimian said.

“We’ve totally revamped our negotiating committee, our players reps, association format and we focused on this moment for the last four years. We’re in a good position and I just want to reaffirm that to the players. We’re in good hands. It is frustrating but that’s to be expected, a lot of collective bargainings are frustrating but we feel like we can get a deal done. We prepared for every situation.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.