CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian: ‘commissioner Randy Ambrosie has refused our call’ to find COVID-19 solutions

Photo courtesy: CFLPA

CFL Players’ Association president Solomon Elimimian has sent out a memo to the entire membership regarding the union’s attempts to be proactive regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The full document from Elimimian reads as follows:

Hi Gentlemen,

I hope you and your family are doing well and staying safe during these trying times. When the public health measures (both federal and provincial) were first announced in March, it was clear to both the League and our Association that these measures would have a significant impact on professional football in Canada. And rather than see this as a labour relations issue, we and the League adopted a more collaborative approach to dealing with the problems that we faced. I am writing today to give you an update on how those efforts have progressed and the steps our Association is prepared to take to address the critical problems that players face.

During the initial phase of the public health measures, our relationship with the League was positive. Early on, we established a working committee to address the most immediate impacts of social distancing measures, quarantine requirement and restrictions on public events. There was genuine cooperation on both sides as the committee worked through the early details of what new measures would mean for our season, training camps and player recruitment.

Unfortunately, that initial cooperation began to disappear as we identified more and more specific contract and League-wide issues. When the working committee was established we stressed the importance of being fully transparent about League finances, the extent to which alternative playing arrangements could be considered and what impact any solutions identified by the committee would have on everything from player safety to broadcast revenues. It seemed that as the problems got tougher, the League’s commitment to sharing information started to evaporate. Moreover, instead of being open to solutions, the League became more hard-nosed about what it was prepared to do and how it would interpret its obligations to players.

The best example of that last point was their approach to paragraph 16 in our Standard Player Contract. We have a different point of view, but that difference has been enough for the League to effectively suspend the work of the committee and all ongoing communications between our Association and the CFL. We are not looking for a chaotic environment, in fact we have proposed a solution that would be mutually beneficial and protect players’ basic rights while also being mindful of the crisis this pandemic has created.

Even more troubling, Commissioner Ambrosie has refused our call to work with him to find a solution that will work for both the League and our members. We want the League to thrive. We believe that workable solutions are possible. But none of that will happen if neither team management nor the Commissioner’s office is prepared to restart the open dialogue that we all recognized early on as critical to addressing the problems that the current health crisis has created for our sport.

More importantly their unwillingness to see room for compromise, new ways to deal with urgent problems, sensible solutions that address player concerns as well as the League’s priorities, all those things are how we will get through this crisis. However, if the League refuses to consider other options, it may well undermine the hard work that players and teams have done in the past to create a viable future for our sport in Canada.

Our Association is not going to sit on the sidelines waiting for the League to change its mind. We are prepared to work on several other fronts, with Player Associations in other sports, who, like us, face uncertainty in the months ahead. We have already advanced plans to work with those Association to ensure, at a minimum, that our members have access to programs and protections needed until seasons can be restarted.

I want you to know we are doing the best we can to address the impact of this health crisis. Although the League’s attitude makes progress difficult, we at the CFLPA office will keep providing resources as well as information as they become available.

Stay safe and be well.

Solomon Elimimian

CFLPA President

Due to language in the collective bargaining agreement, Ambrosie carefully worded his statement on the schedule not starting on time amid COVID-19: the 2020 CFL season won’t start before the beginning of July. From the players perspective, what Ambrosie has said publicly and behind close doors has been vastly different when it comes to discussions on how best to proceed. 

Elimimian prepared his group for the worst during the coronavirus crisis, but at the time never did the players’ leader factor in the league as an impediment to progress.

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