Riders’ CFLPA rep Brett Lauther believes player strike ‘needed to be done’ to stand up to CFL ‘old boys club’

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Fans across Canada are voicing their frustration today, after the Canadian Football League and its Players’ Association failed to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement before the Saturday night deadline.

Seven CFL teams commenced an immediate work stoppage on Sunday and did not take the field for training camp, including the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But while the rabid fans  in Saskatoon are especially upset not to see players practicing as scheduled, the team’s CFLPA representative, veteran kicker Brett Lauther, believes the strike is a necessary evil.

The Nova Scotia native wants to be back on the field, but told Britton Gray of 980 CJME in Regina that the events of this week were a long time coming due to the CFL’s mistreatment of their athletes.

“This is my fourth time through a CBA, I’ve been around the block in the league for a while, and it was something that needed to be done. We’re just tired of taking the short end of the stick and hopefully, something like this leads to a true partnership,” Lauther said.

“I’m hoping truly just going forward, because I love this league so much, that players for the next generation and well after my time can stand on our shoulders for what we decided to do.”

After the league delayed talks to force the pressure of a deadline, the CFL and CFLPA had been involved in heated negotiations since Wednesday. They worked into the night Friday as part of a monster 16-hour negotiation session, but failed to come up with a deal.

The two sides met again Saturday afternoon for a previously unscheduled negotiation session, but the CFL reportedly walked away from the bargaining table after presenting a ‘take it or leave it’ final offer. The CFLPA later called the league’s negotiation tactics “authoritarian” in a communication to its membership.

In what was an obvious PR manoeuvre, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s publicly shared the details of the league’s final collective bargaining proposal to the players on Saturday night. It has been seen around the league as a blatant attempt to turn public opinion against the union, which sends a clear message to Lauther.

“If I’m looking at it from a legal standpoint, there’s only one reason to go public and try to sway public opinion — it’s because things aren’t going your way,” he said. “You know for years you had a bit of the old boys club doing whatever they wanted and now we’re finally sticking up and standing up for ourselves.

“I want to be playing football like everyone else but I’m proud that we finally are the ones sticking up for ourselves.”

The CFL has routinely employed hard-line negotiation tactics in the past and been successful, but appears to have badly misjudged the players’ resolve this time around. After the hardships endured the last two years, there is no longer any appetite to take less than they are worth in exchange for an immediate pay cheque.

Lauther has served as the Riders’ player representative throughout all the turmoil of the cancelled 2020 season and shortened 2021 campaign. He’s watched the players come together over that span and now sees a united front across the league.

“They know every step of the process … we’re all in it together and we’re just hoping to finally get something remotely fair from the league,” Lauther said. “It’s hour-by-hour and day-by-day and hopefully this gets done sooner rather than later.”