Randy Ambrosie wishes he could mandate vaccines for CFL players: ‘We just don’t have the ability to make a unilateral decision’

If commissioner Randy Ambrosie had his way, he’d mandate vaccines for all CFL players.

Despite the league encouraging athletes to get the shot by mandating lost pay and losses for teams who are under 85 percent vaccinated, Ambrosie claims he cannot force the players to take the vaccine.

“We just don’t have the ability to make a unilateral decision on this front. I wish we could because I believe in my heart and I believe based on all of the medical advice we’ve been given, that would be the best thing for our league,” Ambrosie told TSN.

“Boy, I wish I could do that, I really do. I think it would be the thing that would keep us all safest. It would be the way to protect the players and the coaches and all of our staff. I wish I could do that, but we work under a collective bargaining agreement with our players and all of these things have to be done in collaboration with the players.”

From the league’s coronavirus policy: if a team can prove that 85 per cent of its players under contract have been vaccinated, at least once and preferably fully, the athletes will receive their salary for a cancelled game. If a franchise falls below the 85 percent threshold, the entire team will not receive its salary.

“Getting vaccinated is really the priority above all else. Then demanding and asking and pleading that everyone follows the protocols. We’re going to be tough on this issue and it’s not my favourite thing, but we’ll find where we have to send a message that we’re not messing around,” Ambrosie said.

“It’s three things: vaccinate, vaccinate, and vaccinate. By an overwhelming opinion of the medical community, vaccinations is the way to keep people safe. It’s working in the general population. It is largely, if you look at the hospitalization rates, all of those things that we’re hearing on the news everyday, it is the unvaccinated that are being hit hardest by this Delta variant. It’s just simple: get vaccinated.”

The virus has broken out within the Elks, 11 cases at the moment, and the team’s Week 4 game has been postponed. The CFL will attempt to reschedule a game if it cannot be played as originally scheduled due to a COVID-19 breakout. If one only franchise has positive cases, that team will forfeit the game and be assigned a loss while the opponent will be credited with a win by a score of 1-0.

“You gotta get everybody vaccinated. It’s absolutely clear that is the No. 1 priority is to get vaccinations. The majority of those positive test results are unvaccinated players, not exclusively but proportionately that is the largest group. We’ve gotta get people vaccinated,” Ambrosie said.

As soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October, the federal government plans to extend its vaccination requirement to certain travellers. That could include all commercial air travellers and passengers on interprovincial trains.

“Under informed guidance, we’re assuming that is going to be put into place. And that’s another of the many reasons why we’re asking everyone to get vaccinated,” Ambrosie said.

“We are absolutely not assuming that charters are going to be exempt. We’re working under the assumption that charters as regular commercial flights is going to be governed under that same policy.”

The government will engage with key stakeholders to plan for the implementation of these initiatives. Details will be communicated as the work unfolds. The process will include determining how this requirement will be implemented, through confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination and other means of protection, such as testing when necessary.

“We’re working under what I would describe as informed guidance that is very likely to be put in place. If that happens players and all of our tier one personnel are going to have to be ahead of the curve. You can’t wait for that judgement to be passed or that policy to be passed and then try to get vaccinated. You really gotta get vaccinated now and get ahead of the curve.

The CFLPA office sent a memo to the union on Tuesday as case counts rise in the fourth wave. They stressed the need to be “extra cautious” and the importance of the players playing their part in making the 2021 season a success.

“Look, it’s an awfully long drive from Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton and Regina and Winnipeg to Hamilton for a December 12 Grey Cup,” Ambrosie said.

“It’d be disappointing for a player to be watching his teammates play in the biggest game of the year, one of the biggest games in the world of sports, and watching it from your family room because you couldn’t get on an airplane.”

According to the feds, since the start of the vaccination campaign in mid-December, less than one percent of coronavirus cases have been among those who were fully protected by the vaccine.

These measures will contribute to reaching the overall levels of vaccination Canada needs to sustain a resilient economic recovery in the face of more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variants of concern.

More than 71 percent of eligible people in Canada are fully vaccinated, and over 82 percent have had their first shot. However, north of six million eligible people in Canada are still unvaccinated.

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