In part two of CFLPA president Solomon Elimimian’s one-on-one with 3DownNation, the two-time Most Outstanding Defensive Player shares the importance of player health and safety, how the union’s partnership with the league can help build a solid foundation for the future and what life is like as the players’ association’s leader.
You can read part one, where Elimimian gives his perspective on the seven-year collective bargaining agreement and what guaranteed contracts mean for the league and players here.
Justin Dunk: One of the major aspects that was a win for the players was taking care of them from a safety and health standpoint, long term. A lot of people talk about Jonathan Hefney and what he’s had to deal with post-career, but there are a bunch of stories out there. How critical is that aspect of this new CBA to the members?
Solomon Elimimian: “Very critical. Health and safety is our primary goal, making sure that our members are taken care of. What happened to Jonathan shouldn’t happen. Jonathan went through a number of surgeries and he’s the reason why we’ve been fighting for WCB, workers’ compensation. While we continue to fight for WCB, we also negotiated extended coverage that will push coverage from four to five years starting next year. So at five years medical and rehab will be taken care of. That’s something that I’m very proud of.”
“My work is not done yet, we’re still pushing the WCB. We’ve made some tremendous strides in our pursuit of WCB. Jonathan Hefney and what he went through really spurred all this.”
Dunk: What has it been like for you being the CFLPA president? You go from being a player, an elite one, winning Most Outstanding Player, the only defensive player ever to do so, being a dominant defender, and now shifting that focus for the greater good of all players. What’s it been like from when you started to where you are now?
Elimimian: “It’s humbling. I get texts, I get calls from guys I’ve never talked to. ‘Hey, Solly I got a question. Hey, Solly, can you help me with this?’ It’s really humbling because of what the CFL has done for me and my career, my life, as a kid from L.A., inner city, Crenshaw, it gave me a kind of second chance. I exhausted all NFL opportunities and I still wanted to play football. I’m like: ‘Let me go up to Canada.’ And who would have thought that I would have a long successful career? I just want to be able to give that back to these kids. These guys that come up from different places, whether it’s the States, Canada or even our Global players. To make sure they have a great experience. When you meet these guys, they’re tremendous athletes on the field. But these guys are tremendous people. Highlighting them as people, highlighting them, the characters, not just on the football field, but off the football field as well.”
“Being president has been humbling. You try to see it from all angles and really try to understand not just what our players are going through, but also the owners and maybe what is stopping them from pushing things forward. So just having an understanding of how things work, trying to understand maybe what’s stopping it and how to find solutions.”
“There are always problems. My whole thing is how do we find solutions? The one thing I can say about this CBA deal that we signed is it kind of brings it all together in terms of how to find solutions, not working as 10 different partners. Now we have a partnership that can put things out in the open. We’ll be able to audit statements and have a better understanding of the business model and what they’re trying to do.”
Dunk: Does it create a strong foundation for the future of this league?
Elimimian: “I think so. The foundation, with guaranteed contracts, revenue sharing, with extended health coverage, are historical pieces. These are things that we’ve never had before. I think it’s really going to push our alignment closer. The question we’re asking is: how can we help? How can we help increase revenues? When you’re at a fixed rate, at a fixed salary, let’s say $5,000,000 across the board, there’s really no incentive to increase revenues. Now there’s a huge incentive to increase revenues because our members get a share of that.”
Dunk: The CFLPA Academy is something you’re really proud about. How does it impact the players and even their families?
Elimimian: “It’s definitely a huge piece. It’s something that we’ve been building for the last few years and Brian Ramsay, our executive director, has done a fantastic job. Not just with the academy, but making sure the CFLPA’s foundation is solid. It’s really impactful because the careers of athletes aren’t that long. We’ll spend more time outside of football than we will in football. So just make sure guys have the tools to succeed outside of football, make sure they’re ready.”
“Our academy, we have over 2,000 members now. These are current members and alumni as well. We offer one-on-one coaching, tuition support, health and well-being support and helping guys harness the tools and things they want to do outside of football. We have 10 educational partners within Canada and within the U.S. It’s really grown and we want to keep putting more resources into that partnership that we have and into the academy, which is about supporting our members.”