Gambling-focused CFL needs to disclose player vaccination status ahead of Grey Cup playoffs

Photo courtesy: CFL

The CFL has embraced gambling fully and completely.

Every week on the league’s website, the games are posted with the betting lines offered by their sponsor. The over/under is also prominently displayed, and fans are encouraged to make bets on the website of the “League’s Official Betting Sponsor.”

The CFL was a vocal supporter of Bill C-218 which legalized single game betting in Canada, with CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie calling it a “once in a generation opportunity.”

As part of that effort, the league’s new injury reporting rules let us know if a player has a lingering hamstring issue, even if they practice fully and never miss a game. We know if a player just didn’t feel good that day and missed practice. We know every medical reason why a player may or may not play and we get those reports every time they step on the field.

But until now, the CFL’s policy on player vaccination has been one of veiled secrecy, and player’s vaccination status has remained between the player and the league.

As of this coming Sunday, vaccination status should be included in those reports.

We have reached a pivotal moment in the season, one that there is no turning back from. The playoffs are coming and the league’s official betting sponsor is already taking bets.

November 29th, the day after the league’s Semi-Finals, is the last day a passenger on a Canadian flight will be able to provide just a negative COVID-19 result in order to board the plane.

After that, players will have to be fully vaccinated 14 days before going to the airport in order to travel. That includes travel to the games that will be Division Finals and the Grey Cup.

For timetable purposes, that means a player has to have their final dose no later than November 21st in order to participate in those games.

Without disclosing vaccination statuses, the CFL is actively encouraging gambling on games where the outcome may be decided based on a player’s inability to travel.

For example, the Elks aren’t making the playoffs, but James Wilder Jr. — who spoke openly about being unvaccinated — being ineligible would surely make an impact on their chances if they did.

Imagine a league having direct information about a player’s eligibility for a playoff game and not disclosing it as soon as possible? Would that stand in any other league?

Actually, given the league held onto Andrew Harris’ positive steroid test results for three weeks before issuing him a two-game suspension just in time to miss both Labour Day and the Banjo Bowl in 2019, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

Given the outcry after Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers tested positive after playing cute and telling the media he was “immunized” when he wasn’t, the CFL should be putting those players’ statuses front and centre.

After asking the league for comment, the response was to “check with the Players Association,” meaning there is little appetite to wade into the ugly muck that this situation will certainly bring.

For the PA’s part, and completely unsurprisingly, “the CFLPA does not disclose members’ personal medical information” was the response.

I didn’t expect to hear anything else from the PA, because they are not the ones responsible for daily injury reporting. That is a team and league function.

Player availability is a massive part of a team’s potential success and betting lines change daily with each team’s odds of winning the Grey Cup.

Not telling customers, fans, and gamblers, who you know won’t be available for pivotal matchups is a substantial black eye for a league promoting gambling as heavily as the CFL is.