Redblacks CFLPA rep Antione Pruneau: ‘If there’s government help, 70 per cent chance of us playing’

Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Antoine Pruneau can see ways the CFL could play in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 30-year-old veteran serves as the Redblacks representative with CFL Players’ Association. Currently the union and league office are discussing what it would take within the collective bargaining agreement to potentially return to play this year.

“There’s definitely a way to do it. If both sides negotiate in good faith, we’ll have a chance of having a season. We’re in a much better place with the league right now. With them sending that first proposal, even though what was on the table is not what we’re aiming for, at least it’s something we can work with it. Maybe we can find a solution that’s good for everyone,” Pruneau told Postmedia reporter Tim Baines.

“I’m at 50-50 and that’s being positive. There will be an offer and for us it will be, ‘Are we going to accept it or not?’ There are so many things that can go wrong. If there is no government help, there’s not going to be a season – there’s a zero per cent chance – that’s for sure. If there’s government help, I would say maybe there’s a 70 per cent chance of us playing.”

The CFLPA was sent the conditions the league office would want the players union to agree to for a hub city model. It included a key stipulation: agreement on a 2020 shortened season subject to an agreement to amend the collective agreement for 2021 and beyond. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and his cohorts are using the coronavirus crisis to negotiate a longer term CBA.

“I don’t want to speak for others, but to me it’s unimaginable to think we can start working on 2021 at this point. There are people struggling financially that we need to help. If we start thinking about 2021, it’ll delay everything. We have contracts in place right now and we’re not receiving income,” Pruneau said.

“I have a contract and a CBA. It’s unlawful what’s going on right now. At the same time, I understand the league’s financial situation is not permitting them to pay us our full salaries. We’re in a tough situation, we need to sit down and find solutions together.”

The league’s player representations committee has set a deadline of July 23 for the necessary items to be agreed upon — that’s less than two weeks away. Pruneau feels most players are going to wait and see what happens before deciding to find work elsewhere for supporting their families.

“After that, guys are going to make a move for sure. Most of the guys have a Plan B, but they want to know when to pull the trigger. There will be tough decisions for some of the players,” Pruneau said.

“There’s a physical standard you need to have to be back on the field. If you’re not invested fully in your off-season, it’s hard to compete with guys who are. If you decide to take another job and other guys are training full-time, it’s not a fair competition.”

Pruneau has been watching other pro sports trying to get back to competition. Major League Soccer has had multiple teams pull out of its tournament; as the National Basketball Association tries to restart in a bubble there has been positive tests; and the National Hockey League just approved its return to play plan.

“I just hope the other leagues set a good standard,” said Pruneau. “If they fail at restarting, we have no chance. We’re not going to be the miracle league that pulls it off if they can’t. It’s scary to see what’s happening out there.”

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