CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian: ‘everybody is getting paid except for the players’

CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian wants people to understand the current reality for players.

The union membership relies largely on game cheques for income and with the 2020 season delayed there isn’t money coming in.

“A lot of our players haven’t been paid since last November. For people to say, well, the CFL players have to have patience, you have to understand that right now everybody is getting paid except for the players,” Elimimian told 630 CHED radio in Edmonton.

“That’s a little insensitive because there’s going to be players that have to make decisions about whether they can keep waiting to have a 2020 season or maybe they have to move on to take care of their families.”

Montreal Alouettes running back James Wilder Jr. was the first big name player to move on from Canadian football due to the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season. Wilder Jr. will be the head trainer at Get Wilder Fitness and run game coordinator plus running backs coach at Plant High School where he rose to stardom on the field. Elimimian spoke with Wilder Jr. as he made his final decision and there could be more players follow.

“It’s important for people to understand, especially fans, there is going to be natural emotions especially at a time when there is no certainty and all or our players are faced with life decisions of how to take care of their family. That’s not easy, Elimimian said.

“There’s a culture of lack of communication. I like Randy [Ambrosie] personally, it goes past Randy because I was a player during Jeffrey Orridge and Mark Cohon when they were commissioners, and it’s a culture the CFL has that doesn’t include the players in a meaningful partnership.”

On Thursday, June 11, CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay called out commissioner Randy Ambrosie for not receiving concrete ideas regarding a collective agreement or about opportunities to get on the field this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Other members of the union have been sharing their displeasure on social media.

“I feel like everything has been a perfect storm where guys are frustrated. The CFL has to change its approach on how they communicate and deal with the players as the No. 1 stakeholders,” Elimimian said.

“We know the sacrifices the players have made for this game, certainly we want to be treated fairly and that’s all we’ve been asking for this whole time. Communicating with us on a regular basis so we can make the best informed decisions during this tough time.”

The CFLPA let its union membership know collective bargaining discussions with the league have begun. The league’s current CBA doesn’t expire until the end of the 2021 season, but there will need to be a modified agreement to accommodate a potential shortened 2020 campaign.

“We’ve been thinking and we’ve been putting some things down on our side. We have some really good ideas to bring value to the CFL and to bring value to our members. We do believe that our members are an important part of the CFL and for so long we haven’t felt the partnership that should be there,” Elimimian said.

“It’s important to focus, we do currently have a CBA and until that’s changed we’re currently operating on the CBA that doesn’t run out until at the end of the 2021 season. There’s things in the 2020 CBA that would have to be amended and those are talks that we look forward to handle.”

The league office has been modelling the concept of one big hub city for potentially playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Ambrosie states the gigantic CFL bubble has advantages because it brings the entire ecosystem into a state of isolation and that’s one of the main reasons why it’s being investigated.

“When the CFL is having return to play, hub city models, we’ve had one meeting with them in terms of what that hub city model might look like. We want to be involved, we want to be able to let our players know,” Elimimian said.

“The biggest thing is making sure that if a 2020 season is possible, and more importantly it’s healthy and safety, that’s the No. 1 priority. If it’s safe and if we get the green light from health officials, then the indication I’ve received as president is our players do want to play a 2020 season.”

The National Hockey League is in the process of finalizing two hub cities for its return to play scenario. Meanwhile the National Basketball Association is planning to use the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida for its entire back on the court approach. Major League Soccer has chosen the one place model as well utilizing ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex for its tournament.

“Our focus is the 2020 season and making sure there is a decision made so our players can find certainty. Understand what the proposal is, understand what direction they would like to go. We have an idea but until something is formally put down, it’s just that, an idea,” Eilimimian said.

“From our end it’s the communication part. We’re not saying the CFL will have all the answers, we certainly know they won’t, but there’s a way to work through it and what we’ve been frustrated with is the lack of meaningful engagement.”