Monday Mailbag: cost of living in Toronto vs. Regina, CFL marketing and social media

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

You can submit a question via email ([email protected]) or direct message on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

When submitting questions via email, please type “Monday Mailbag” into the subject line. On social media, please start your message with the words “3DownNation Monday Mailbag.” This really helps us find and manage the questions we get.

Please note that by sending us a question you are giving us the right to publish it along with your name. Questions may be lightly edited for spelling and/or formatting.

We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.

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I’ve been a big Argo and CFL fan for 50-plus years and I struggle with the pay these kids receive. It’s tough when fans make more than many players and I have read all the stuff that outlines the reasons why.

But as an Argo fan how do any of these athletes afford Toronto? And does the league allow a cost-of-living adjustment for Toronto costs? You could make a lot less in Saskatchewan and still net more.

So how does Toronto compete to even attract these U.S. players when their costs are so much higher and their take home so low, especially when converted to U.S. dollars?

Thanks,

Archie

Thanks for the question, Archie.

I often hear concerns about the cost of living in cities like Toronto or Vancouver from CFL fans, but I’ve never heard them from players. The Argos certainly haven’t had trouble attracting talent during this extended off-season, inking players like Nick Arbuckle, John White IV, Cameron Judge, and Charleston Hughes.

Is the cost of living substantially higher in Toronto than Regina? Absolutely. The trade-off is that Toronto has far better weather, amenities, and entertainment than Regina ever will.

That’s not a knock on Regina — I love living on the prairies — but it’s undeniable that it lacks big-city glamour. Americans have all heard of Toronto and know at least a little bit about the city. Most Americans have never heard of Regina and, depending on their background, might find the concept of living in a relatively small cold-weather city completely untenable.

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be running a series on 3DownNation featuring the highest-paid CFL players at each position. One of the reasons we’re doing it is to dispel the myth that CFL players are poor. CFL players make nowhere near the money their NFL counterparts do, but it’s not like they’re being paid a starvation wage.

The minimum salary in the CFL is $65,000 for what is essentially six months of work. Many first and second-year players make the league’s minimum salary, but they typically receive a substantial increase on their second contracts. Salaries have shrunk due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortened 2021 season, but that’s hardly unique as most industries remain in a state of recovery.

Let’s also acknowledge that training in the off-season isn’t a full-time job. I appreciate that training requires time, money, and energy, but it still leaves time to pursue other things. It’s manageable to work a part-time job, operate a small business or take postsecondary courses during the off-season. Careers in professional sports are short and the CFLPA has done a great job establishing programs to help players achieve success post-football.

CFL players are elite athletes and deserve to make more money than they do. With that said, any financial challenges they’re facing in Toronto or Vancouver are no different than the vast majority of young people who are struggling to make ends meet in those ultra-expensive cities.

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 I saw Charleston Hughes’ tweet on Toronto jerk chicken and it made me think of the following regarding teams building local identity.

What if we had players from the Argos doing local stuff with CBC Gem’s “Next Stop” series, say trying the best patties at different subway stations and arguing over which is the best? The series plays in themes that could resonate with players, fans and the Argos organization.

It would be authentic, local “insider” references that would really work for the CFL vs. other leagues with more resources and “glamour.” I’m sure the series would appreciate the cross marketing and be easier to work with than someone like Drake. It could create the sense that, although everyone in Canada knows the Jays, Raptors, and Leafs, only those that really live in “The Six” really “get” that the Argos are Toronto’s team.

They could also do something with the “Letterkenny” cast. It’s right up their alley. They could incorporate other local references, micro breweries and stuff. Of course they should also broadcast Argos (and Lions and other teams) games in Punjabi, Hindi, Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, and/or Taglog as well as recruit former players Nuvraj Bassi and Bryan Chiu to teach football skills in cultural communities.

The resources are all there to expand the CFL’s reach, probably more than other leagues. Yes, at times the CFL has made references to its deep roots in diversity, but has not taken advantage nearly enough, and I can’t see it costing much.

-Denis from Montreal

Thanks for the message, Denis.

I think these are all good ideas and they touch on unique opportunities the CFL has to engage its local communities.

It’s true that Canadian kids largely grow up idolizing NFL players. Considering the fame and fortune that comes with playing in the NFL — not to mention the wide-reaching effects of the ultra-popular Madden video game franchise — it’s easy to see why the NFL comes first for so many of our kids.

The good news is that there’s still a place for the CFL at the local level. Lamar Jackson is never going to read books to elementary school students in Hamilton. Patrick Mahomes is never going to guest coach at a football camp in Vancouver. Derrick Henry is never going to pitch in at a food bank in Regina.

These are things that CFL players do all the time and could potentially do more if stronger initiatives were in place. Many of them live in the communities in which they play and take the time to enrich the lives of local citizens.

The things you’re describing — local coaching initiatives, videos shot in local subways, etc. — are too small for the millionaires of the NHL and MLB. This is an area in which the Argos or any CFL team can stand out. The players are approachable and relatable, which is a strength few other well-established professional leagues have.

While we’re at it, here’s something else CFL teams need to do: include social media engagements as an incentive in player contracts. Want to make some extra money? Reach a target of X likes, engagements or comments on Instagram. Social media bonuses could be capped at a certain dollar figure — say, a couple thousand bucks, but exempt from the salary cap.

It’s not a huge investment for teams to have graphic designers produce content that’s optimized for different social media platforms — teams are already producing game-day content and promotional materials anyway — and have players post it to their large followings.

Ricardo Louis has almost 35,000 followers on Instagram but has posted nothing thus far about being in training camp with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. There are lots of former NCAA or NFL stars who are in the same boat.

I’ve noticed the Argos actually seem to be ahead in this regard with well-known American players like Eli Harold (27,000 followers), Shawn Oakman (78,000 followers), and Shane Ray (116,000 followers) all having posted photos from training camp.

It’s just an idea, but it’s an easy way to draw some eyeballs to the CFL.

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