Redblacks players’ association rep Antoine Pruneau message to union: ‘act like there’s not going to be a season’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Veteran Canadian Football League defensive back Antoine Pruneau has a realistic mindset towards a potential 2020 season.

The 30-year-old Ottawa Redblacks team players’ association representative wants to play football, but understands the difficult realities COVID-19 presents.

“Our message to our membership is we have to act like there’s not going to be a season, there’s no certainty. But our members want to play football this year. We have to exhaust every possible option we have before we throw in the towel on the 2020 season,” Pruneau told Postmedia reporter Tim Baines.

“Of course it’s creating anxiety, but we’re going to keep pushing to play. It’ll be a bonus if we can play football this year, then everybody will have a decision to make. I won’t play football for any deal, there needs to be a decent deal in place.”

Originally, Thursday, July 23 was the CFL’s self-imposed deadline to reach an agreement with the CFLPA for a possible condensed schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, the date was pushed to Friday, July 24 and it’s been bumped again to the end of July.

“On our side, we don’t have a timeline. The timeline was proposed by the league. There’s no specific date for us. But we understand that, at some point, we need to get things done,” Pruneau said.

“It’s been frustrating — there’s some stuff we’re still discussing that could have been discussed months ago. I would say 90 percent of what we can do without the government help, we have already fixed with the league.”

The CFL Player’s Association issued an update to its members Friday evening stating the drop dead date has been extended into next week as they await a decision from the Canadian federal government on potential funding. Support from Justin Trudeau’s government could be essential for any return to play strategy kicking off.

“From the financial side, the league has kept saying, until they secure government help, they cannot discuss salary with us. That’s what’s slowing everything down, for sure. The way I would put it is I’m confident at some point the league and the players are going to agree to something,” Pruneau said.

“But I’m a bit scared that it could be dependent on government help. I’m not saying if the government is not helping, there’s zero chance for a season, but clearly it doesn’t look good if they’re not in.”

The CFL offered the union pro-rated base salary pay of 33 percent for a six-game season. The union membership was surveyed by the CFL Players’ Association, and according to 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk’s sources, over 85 percent of players voted no to the financial aspect.

“We know know the league’s in a tough position, but our work is not just during those six weeks, there’s a ton of work done during the off-season. Obviously we’re not going to get what we want. Guys want to play so much, they may accept a little less than they would in a normal situation. But I think we need more than 33 percent,” Pruneau said.

Health and safety is top of mind for players travelling and potentially playing with COVID-19 lurking. There would be testing before the players arrive in Winnipeg and immediately afterwards to secure the bubble at the hub city. However, following the initial rounds, testing would only be done on day six, 13 and for players displaying symptoms.

“The past couple of weeks have been good. Within a couple of days, issues with the health protocols, which were far from acceptable to us, were fixed. So I know they can get a lot of things done fast,” Pruneau said.

“There’s still some health stuff we have to keep looking into. Then there are the logistics of bringing American players (to Canada). I think we can figure those things out, it’s been done in other leagues.”

The CFLPA was sent the conditions the league office would want the players union to agree to for a hub city model on July 4. Included was a stipulation for an agreement on a 2020 shortened season subject to an agreement to amend the collective agreement for 2021 and beyond. Although, there hasn’t been substantial dialogue about reworking the future years.

“From what I understand, we haven’t discussed anything about 2021. Our guys are satisfied with the CBA that’s already in place. If the league wants to have a 2020 season, let’s make amendments to the CBA,” Pruneau said.

“We’re willing to hear their suggestions for 2021, but we’re not going to move from what we have to get a deal done for 2020.”