I’m not normally one who shies away from expletives in my every day life.
I often find myself pardoning “my French”, but the news that the players won’t be reporting to camp without a new CBA in place has made my household downright bilingual.
It started slowly, with a few tweets here and there from some high-level players suggesting they wouldn’t be going. Then it became a directive from the CFLPA to not attend camp without a deal as reported by our very own John Hodge.
It was at that point, my language became very colourful indeed.
I love this game, and this league. I think it’s the best brand of football on earth. There is nothing better than discussing comeback options that may include a rouge as a legitimate way to get past your opponent.
“No Lead is Safe” wasn’t just a slogan, but the true reflection of a league that doesn’t essentially walk off the field with two minutes left if the team with the lead has the ball, and the team without doesn’t have any timeouts.
Yet here we stand, just a few weeks away from training camp at an incredible impasse that threatens one of the loves of my life.
This one lands squarely at the feet of the league offices, and that makes it even more maddening.
Typically in sports negotiations, I have sided with the owners. I’ll never forget the Patrick Ewing quote during NBA negotiations in 1998 that moved me into that camp: “They make a lot of money, but they also spend a lot of money.” Ewing explained in what may be the most tone-deaf labour quote of all time.
This time, though I stand firmly with the players.
I don’t want to hate the owners. I don’t begrudge them making money. I want the league to be financially sound and successful in all markets collectively. A healthy league that makes money means that as a fan I get to watch for years more.
Then the league walked away from the table, seemingly in an effort to break the union and force players to take less because they need to have something to pay their bills.
CFL players, with a few notable exceptions, are lunch-bucket salary guys. The minimum salary was $54,000 CAD which translates as I write this article to just over $40,000 USD before tax.
I’m not saying that isn’t decent money, but with the average CFL career lasting somewhere in the neighbourhood of three years, it isn’t exactly the retirement lottery ticket of other sports leagues.
So I am having an incredibly hard time figuring out why the league walked away from the table. What is keeping them from resuming negotiations prior to April 29? A one month break from negotiations at a time when there is little remaining time to settle their differences without disrupting the season.
Is the league counting on the minimum-salary players, who may have also been among those who have seen off-season bonuses withheld, to overwhelm the CFLPA and try to report anyway in order to collect on existing contracts?
Are they hoping for the public spats over the ratio to split the national portion of the union from the international?
Are they hoping the union caves in the face of mounting household bills?
I believe the answer is yes to all the above.
The league is dead set on CFL 2.0 being launched, and have continually had news releases, drafts and other activities to that end. This is all well and good if you have a CFL 1.0 that is up and operating.
How do you think you are going to sell this new commodity in a global marketplace when the first thing that these new fans are going to see is a work stoppage?
“Wow Klaus! These guys lockout their players in such an exciting way! I can’t wait to see if the strike actions are just like the NFL!”
“Exactly Rutiger! This might be even more thrilling because these aren’t millionaires missing paycheques! Some of these guys might miss a mortgage payment! The CFL has me so begeistert!”
What a wonderful kickoff to this initiative! Or at least there would be a kickoff, but you know, the players aren’t going to actually be there to kick it or receive it.
So now we are left with threats from the union, silence from the league, and a look into Finnish prospects?
Thanks, but no thanks.
Get back to the table and get a damn deal done.