Uncertainty continues for CFL players despite new start date

Although the CFL announced its intention to start its season in August, some players remain skeptical and are being told to keep options open for 2021.

“We’ve directed players not to quit their current employment until more is known about the certainty of the season until there’s more meat on the bone,” Solomon Elimimian, president of the CFL Players Association said.

The Riders linebacker retired in February after playing for a decade, to pursue new opportunities. However, Elimimian talked to players who decided to step away due to their uncertainty.

“That was a contributing factor, the uncertainty and that’s why some players chose to retire,” Elimimian said.

On Apr. 9, the Riders announced that quarterback James Franklin was retiring, despite never playing a single game with Saskatchewan.

“You see that through the pandemic it forces people to look at their lives and so I think you’ll see a little bit of that potentially, we saw that with James,” Craig Reynolds, president and CEO of the Riders, said.

CFL players are still trying to rebuild trust with the league after the season was cancelled in 2020.

“We understand there are things outside of our control but the thing we can control is communication and that’s what we expect,” Elimimian noted.

Defensive lineman Chad Geter is the Riders player representative on the CFLPA and says it was challenging navigating the situation in 2020 without much communication.

“We were kinda in the dark a lot, we didn’t have any type of date, it kept getting postponed and postponed,” Geter said.

The CFL is targetting an Aug. 5 start date, culminating with a Grey Cup Championship in Hamilton on Dec. 12.

“It is something to be excited for but there still is a lot of work to be done,” Geter said.

However, Geter is cautiously optimistic.

“I think the CFL has 1 or 2 more chances to push it back until we see a whole load of players saying I can’t do with the uncertainty anymore,” Geter explained.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie says that the league has tried to be transparent, but it’s hard to provide certainty in a changing environment.

“We’ve tried to be as open and honest with them [the CFLPA] about the challenges we're facing as a league, we’ve shared our financials with them, we’ve done everything we can to try and give them every insight possible into the challenges that we’re facing,” Ambrosie said.

The Riders have asked players to take pay cuts and it’s been reporter that the CFL is trying to negotiate an additional salary reduction with players.

The CFLPA didn’t confirm or deny the reports, as they’re currently at the bargaining table with the CFL. However, Elimimian said players have already sacrificed game paycheques for a year.

“We’ve taken dramatic concessions already to enable the CFL to have a 2021 season,” Elimimian said. “A lot of things have to be ironed out at the bargaining table so we’re anxious to have those talks.”