CFL Players’ Association wants ‘hard commitment’ from league to play 2021 season

Photo courtesy: CFLPA

CFL players want to play football — no ifs, ands, or buts.

The union and its membership are committed to playing in 2021 whether it be a full 18-game regular season with playoffs or a shortened schedule in a hub city — whatever it takes to suit up. All the athletes are asking from the league is the same sentiment.

“The commitment that we’re looking for is to ensure that we don’t go down the same path. We were able to successfully negotiate accommodations to the collective agreement in 2020 and the creation of a hub city, and yet we still didn’t play,” CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay said.

“At this point optimism is not enough for us. We want a hard commitment and honestly, I think our players, fans, everybody deserves it. In terms of the last three months after the season was cancelled, we would love to hear the plans in terms of what’s been worked on by the league,” CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian said.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated the league has modelled multiple scenarios for potentially playing in 2021, but he stopped short of providing details or guaranteeing a season during his state of the league address. Ideally, the players wanted to hear a multi-faceted plan with built-in adjustments and variables which take into account the ever-changing COVID-19 world.

“Every business, every league is going through this pandemic, it’s definitely not easy, but a lot of businesses, a lot of leagues found a way to adapt. We too need to find a way to adapt because we don’t know if this pandemic is going to be gone for 2021. If we don’t adapt we are not going to be able to survive,” Elimimian said.

“We do realize full well that we’re dealing with the pandemic. There’s some lessons that we can learn on how best to create a solution. We’ve got a lot of time, but we need to focus on finding those solutions now so we don’t end up anywhere near the same spot we were in last year,” Ramsay said.

The players’ association feels strongly that decisions need to be made — and quickly, preferably — by the CFL regarding planning for football next year. The league is working to finalize a schedule for 2021, but that doesn’t mean much. Last season had a completed schedule before it was completely scrapped when the board of governors voted down a bubble proposal.

“Our executive did a great job of successfully negotiating a hub city 2020 amended CBA — that was a done deal. We worked with the league to accomplish that, it didn’t come to fruition and only they can answer why,” Elimimian said.

Publicly, the owners and the league office stated they all wanted to play football, but the math doesn’t add up because the final tally resulted in a cancelled season. The players don’t want the same result to happen again and solely relying on a vaccine shouldn’t be the main game plan for 2021.

“We were able to successfully find solutions to a hub city that’s worked for other leagues in both Canada and the U.S. without a vaccine. There are ways around it,” Ramsay said.

“It’s not good enough to say, ‘Well, we’re going through a pandemic and let’s bury our heads in the sand,'” Elimimian said.

The PA wants a concrete plan and everything else can follow for playing football in 2021. Players are adaptable and the league needs to follow that lead.

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