Paragraph 16 mass free agency ‘no longer an issue’ between CFL and CFLPA: Arash Madani

A major issue of contention between the CFL and the CFL Players’ Association has been resolved.

Paragraph 16 of the standard player contracts could have voided all pacts if the CFL suspended gameplay because of COVID-19. That would have resulted in chaotic mass free agency but the players have now agreed to change their interpretation, according to Sportsnet’s Arash Madani.

“This is what I can tell you, there has been a resolution between the league and the players on that front, on paragraph 16. In the back and forth that has gone on, the players have acknowledged that no, not everybody is going to be a free agent because of this,” Madani said on the SportsCage in Regina.

Paragraph 16 reads as follows:

It is mutually understood and agreed that if the operation of the Canadian Football League is suspended, this Contract shall immediately be terminated and the remuneration to be paid to the Player shall be on the basis as provided by Paragraph 11 herein.

Originally written to protect players in the event that the league had ceased operations and folded, some believed it should also apply to the coronavirus pandemic. Just this week, both defensive back Courtney Stephen and defensive tackle Dylan Wynn of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Tweeted about the clause. The CFLPA has now dropped that interpretation because the idea of mass free agency helped very few, except the handful of CFL players who might generate NFL interest.

“That point is kind of moot because around 65-70 percent of the contracts are all one-year deals anyway,” Madani said.

“What [the decision] effectively does is protects teams if they’ve given a lot of money to a free agent this year up front, it protects teams from losing the quarterbacks on their roster and it protects teams with their Canadian draft picks.”

While the legal viability of the players original stance is debatable, this was an important concession by the players at little cost to themselves. It comes as the two sides have been quietly working to resolve issues while they await potential government funding.

“What they are doing is trying to make sure the 2020 agreement is close, so that if the government says ‘OK, here’s some money’ they don’t have to start from scratch,” Madani said.

There are still several big items on the negotiating table, however.

“Let’s say there are about 16 points that the players and the league have to sign off on. They’ve done about 11 or 12 right now,” Madani stated.

“There are still significant points on injury protection for 2021, if you get hurt this season then it shouldn’t screw you next year, but also financial certainty, that if you are going to come into this bubble and play in 2020 then your money is guaranteed. Those are still points of contention.”

Ultimately, while Madani has serious personal reservations about the league’s health protocols and the season timeline, it is government funding, not paragraph 16, that will determine the 2020 season’s viability.

“This entire thing hinges on the federal government coming through with any kind of funding,” Madani said.

“If the feds give enough, you can move forward with playing a modified 2020 season. If not, forget about it.”