Henry Burris: CFL players debating whether it’s worth playing half a season financially

Henry Burris is only three seasons removed from playing in the CFL and still knows many active players around the league who are weighing the financial possibilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What about with the money? I don’t know if there’s going to be any contingency plan for players to make the money because if there’s no football, there’s no money from the television contract,” Burris said on TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa.

CFL training camps have been postponed indefinitely. Burris divulged he has spoken with decision-makers in the league and the idea of potentially playing half of a season — nine games — starting on Labour Day has been discussed. But he acknowledged the timeline is not in their hands.

“Guys have asked is it worth coming up with only 50 percent of the pay that I’m going to receive with where the dollar is in Canada and then move back to the U.S with my family. Guys have to consider what’s more efficient for their family to make ends meet,” Burris said.

“Some guys, with the reduction in pay, if it was to be a half season you’re only receiving 50 percent of your pay once it’s prorated at that point. For a lot of guys they’re going to be asking themselves that question: should I go out and start looking for an occupation?”

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie cancelled the CFL combines during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and is planning for contingencies. The CFL regular season kick-off is currently set for June 11 and the Grey Cup on the docket for November 22 in Regina. Exploring different iterations of a how a CFL schedule would happen is front and centre for the league.

“Each and every other league is looking at other leagues and taking models and examples from them because they don’t want to be the league that makes that mistake and says definitively we’re coming back this day, oh wait, no we’re not. That makes their upper executives management and the people making the decisions look like they didn’t take any consideration,” Burris said.

CFL Players’ Association president Solomon Elimimian has told the membership to prepare for the worst amid the coronavirus uncertainty. There have been discussions with the league about what a modified start to the season could look like. Shorter training camps, cutting out pre-season games and eliminating bye weeks are among the possibilities for condensing the timeline in order to play as many meaningful games as possible.

“It’s about making that capital, so these teams and organizations can continue to function fairly and they can function efficiently into the future,” Burris said.

“Who knows what would happen if this entire season got cancelled, I think that’s a reality I definitely don’t want to foresee and try to imagine.”

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