The Canadian Football League Players’ Association is asking for more cooperation from the league during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CFLPA president and Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Solomon Elimimian said the CFL and the players’ association were having regular conversations on how to deal with the pandemic, up until recently.
Things changed, Elimimian, when they approached the league about a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that needed to be addressed.
“Paragraph 16 states if the league is suspended, players become free agents,” Elimimian told Global News. “We actually came to the league three or four weeks ago to identify this issue and said ‘how can we work this issue out?’
“The league subsequently came back and said ‘no.’”
That response didn’t sit well with the CFLPA. While the players’ association doesn’t necessarily want everyone to actually become a free agent if the season does get cancelled, it says, the option needs to be there for players who need to find another paycheque.
“As partners, you would think through a crisis, you can work things out,” said Elimimian.
“It was no hard lines or ultimatums on our side. It was simply how we do we best go about this to make sure that whatever we agree, it’s mutual for both parties.”
Global News reached out to the CFL about the discussions between the two sides, but had yet to receive a response by deadline.
Recently, the league announced a new season would not start until July at the earliest. And as the delay goes on, there’s a very real chance games could be outright cancelled. And if that happens, the players say they need clarity when it comes to their jobs.
“Things like how many games are going to be played, salary structure, housing, a lot of critical issues we have to work on,” said Elimimian.
“Hopefully the commissioner will reconsider and we can get back to the table and just work things out.”
Another issue the PA believes is worth discussing is employment insurance, which could potentially help many players in situations without income.
“There’s a misconception out there, that as players we don’t pay into EI,” said Elimimian. “We actually do pay into EI so that’s a subsidy during this time of financial hardship that will come in handy once games are missed.”
However, when it comes to cancelling games or a season, it could be out of both sides’ hands.
The border between Canada and the United States remains closed for non-essential travel, so until those bans are lifted, American-born CFL players wouldn’t be allowed to report to their respective clubs. Elimimian says the PA is continuing to pay close attention to both sides of the border, while keeping its members informed.
“Hopefully when the green light is given, we can play some football and guys can get back to work,” he said.
Missing games doesn’t benefit either side, so Elimimian says it’s time for the two sides to work together and find a solution.
“We’re kind of at an impasse right now,” he said. “Hopefully the league comes back to the table and we can get some headway here and get things resolved.
“What we’re trying to do is put the CFL in the best position that, when and if those restrictions are lifted, guys can get back to work and we can play football again.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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