Glen Suitor is many things.
All-star safety. Award winning colour analyst. Honorary Air Force colonel and noted country music fan. Above all else, he is a passionate advocate for the game of Canadian football and it’s homegrown players.
That will not be changing in the face of collaborative talks between the CFL and the XFL which many speculate, could bring about a merger of the two leagues and a seismic shift in how the game is played.
“I don’t believe that playing four down football is the answer to prosperity financially for pro football in our country. I just don’t believe that. And secondly, I think what makes our games so great and unique are those rules and that Canadian talent, ” Suitor said emphatically in his regular spot on The SportsCage in Regina.
“I’m not going to apologize for it. I refuse to.”
The CFL has been awarding the Grey Cup for over 100 years. Meanwhile, the original XFL lasted one full season in 2001 and the revival in 2020 played just five weeks before folding due to the pandemic.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his associate purchased the bankrupt league for just $15 million and now the two leagues have entered into formal talks exploring potential for collaboration and innovation to grow the game of football.
Those aren’t necessarily bad things according to Suitor.
“To have discussions with a guy that is so prominent and dominant in social media, in the world of click headlines and celebrity and all of that, to listen and hear out and talk to The Rock and his group, I think is a good idea,” he said with one important caveat.
“I know I have, and I think I speak for a lot of Canadians, some lines in the sand when we start to get into the speculation game.”
For Suitor, those are the core Canadian rules with its wide field, three downs, 12 men and endless motion, but also the protection of Canadian players through the ratio.
As a young Canadian with pro football dreams, Suitor recognized the opportunity the league gave him and wants that pathway to remain open. In his opinion, Canadians must protect their own interests when dealing with a country that will absolutely give advantage to its citizens.
“I know what it’s like as a Canadian to try to work in the United States. They protect their own. You go for an O1 visa, which is a visa of extraordinary talent, and you can get them — both my kids did — but it’s very, very difficult,” Suitor explained.
“They protect their own and I will not apologize for protecting Canadian jobs. I’m not just talking about players. I’m talking about coaches, I’m talking about staff, I’m talking about all of it.”
A full merger would absolutely put that in jeopardy and would come with a bevy of additional hurdles given the differences between the XFL’s centralized business model and the CFL’s.
“The publicly owned teams, are they willing to give up that control to a centrally run business? When you talk to the Player’s Association and the players, are they okay with a centrally run business and no union?” Suitor queried.
“When we talk about the extreme in the speculation, you’re talking about a merger and when you’re talking about a merger of both leagues, there are a hundred logistical issues and there are many sort of just philosophical issues.”
While he admits the CFL must get younger, Suitor tosses aside the common notion that the CFL has been dying for some time, noting strong TV numbers, an abundance of government investment in football-first infrastructure and recent periods of success for struggling teams like the B.C. Lions.
While the league could capitalize on The Rock’s stardom for a marketing boost, Suitor warns what tying yourself to a strong marketer in an upstart football league could bring.
“The first go at the XFL was led by Vince McMahon, who is the king of marketing, and the partner was Dick Ebersol, who was at the time the major player at NBC. They had their built-in television contract and they had Vince McMahon in his prime of marketing expertise and it didn’t work,” Suitor reminded listeners.
“It didn’t work the second time, the USFL hasn’t worked, the UFL hasn’t worked, all of these other leagues not called the NFL haven’t worked.”
That leaves the CFL with two simple options.
“We can learn from history or we can project the future based on our own bias and our own opinions. I think we learn from history and move together, trying to find common ground that can help both of our leagues grow the game,” Suitor said.
“If that’s what this is about, I’m all for it.”