CFL players are back on the field following the league’s first strike in 48 years, but a growing number of veterans are voicing their displeasure over the terms of the proposed collective bargaining agreement that ended the work stoppage.
“If I’m being honest, no, it’s not something I’m 100 percent satisfied with,” Montreal Alouettes’ linebacker Chris Ackie told reporter Herb Zurkowsky on Thursday. “I feel like we’re giving up a lot of things that are important to the CFL. The ratio. We’re giving up a lot.”
The Canadian Football League Players’ Association executive signed a memorandum of understanding on the new CBA on Wednesday following a four-day strike by its membership. The proposed seven-year agreement still needs to be ratified by a player vote but despite near media consensus that the deal is a good one for players, many aren’t convinced.
Canadian players like Ackie are particularly concerned with the outlined changes to the ratio, which would allow three “nationalized Americans” — defined as any American who has spent three seasons with their team or five in the league — to be substituted in place of a Canadian starter for up to 49 percent of plays in a game.
While that amendment to the CFL’s Canadian ratio is much less dramatic than what the league originally proposed, it has done little to calm worries that the league is trying to get rid of Canadian players.
The deal has other flaws as well and some players expected more significant gains after finally standing up to the league. As his team’s CFLPA representative, Ackie is in charge of communicating the terms of the agreement and he refuses to sugarcoat it.
“There’s some good stuff, but there’s also some stuff that’s not ideal,” Ackie stressed. “Overall, I think the revenue sharing is a big thing for the players. But going back in the pads when our insurance is still the same? I feel like we’re increasing the risk of injury. Our insurance isn’t matching the risks on the field.”
“Personally, I feel like it’s not the best deal. I don’t 100 percent agree with it.”
Alouettes players will have a meeting with CFLPA leadership in the coming days to get their opinion on the agreement, but Ackie will not endorse the deal on the table. Players can draw their own conclusions, but he won’t lobby them.
“Once they hear the terms they can make a decision for themselves. I can’t speak for every player in the league. If they don’t feel it’s up to par for what they need, I fear it could get rejected,” Ackie warned, though he added that his views might not reflect those of the locker room.
“Just because I feel my way doesn’t mean other players will have the same sentiment.”
Ratification votes are typically viewed as a formality, but this one appears to be anything but. Several prominent Alouettes players, including veteran defensive tackle Almondo Sewell and safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy, also voiced their displeasure Thursday and those feelings were echoed throughout the league.
It seems after yet another offseason spent holding their breath, CFL fans shouldn’t exhale quite yet.