Players in seven cities began the first CFL strike in 48 years on Sunday and one key member of union leadership hopes that the public will join them in protest.
Blue Bombers linebacker and Canadian Football League Players’ Association vice-president Adam Bighill told Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun that players intend to picket Investors Group Field in the near future and will be inviting fans to join them on the line.
“We want to get back and they want us to get back and we realize they are our biggest supporters,” Bighill said. “We’d love for them to support us on the picket line when it comes to it.”
The CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player was elected to the CFLPA board of directors in March and was an active part of the negotiating team that failed to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement Saturday. Bighill initially believed this year’s negotiation would not be “overly combative,” but was proven wrong by the CFL’s hardline tactics.
After days of negotiations, the league reportedly walked away from the bargaining table before Saturday’s deadline, presenting a ‘take it or leave it’ final offer. The terms of that proposed deal were then shared publicly by commissioner Randy Ambrosie in an effort to turn fan opinion against the players, a move the CFLPA later called “authoritarian” in a communication to its membership.
The union then announced an immediate work stoppage late Saturday night, the first since 1974.
“We’re looking for a fair deal,” Bighill said. “It’s really as simple as that.
While the back-to-back Grey Cup champions were among the teams who did not take the field for the scheduled opening of training camps, Bighill believes the Bombers are well-positioned for success no matter what thanks to their veteran leadership.
That was on display when several Bombers took to the field for a player-directed walk-through on Sunday, but they may not be able to do so in the future. Teams will be locking up their facilities starting tomorrow.
“There’s been a mandate from the league to shut down all facilities,” Bighill explained. “That came out Sunday morning. When we talked to clubs Saturday evening, there were clubs that were going to let players continue to use facilities for training, showering, working out. Obviously, that changed with a league-wide memo from the head office.”
“That offer has been rescinded and we’re figuring out other ways to take care of our players in regards to training and gym stuff and overall needs for staying in shape and being ready for when the season is available to start.”
Both sides hope to come to a resolution quickly, with Bighill citing revenue sharing and long-term injury coverage as sticking points, with the length of the deal and ensuring it does not expire on the eve of training camp in the future also being concerns for the players.
The first issue is likely the most important, as the league has made big claims about the potential financial gains for players throughout their proposed deal, but have been accused of some shady accounting.
“This revenue sharing model had been built entirely through the CFL so far as a proposal and it lacks transparency,” Bighil noted. “They have not approved our request for auditors to be able to validate revenue. They’ve talked about excluding certain types of revenue. Overall, the transparency hasn’t been there.”
“The fact that they haven’t approved auditors to come in and validate, it’s been a red flag for us and doesn’t give us confidence.”
Until that confidence is restored, CFL players will be on the picket line rather than the field.