CFL opt-out rules come into focus as CBA negotiations continue

CFL opt-out rules come into focus as CBA negotiations continue

A CFL player opting out of a potential shortened season won’t be paid, but could still hit free agency this winter if he’s in the final year of his contract.

According to a league source, CFL players with safety concerns could decide against playing in 2020, without penalty. The league and CFL Players’ Association continue to discuss amendments to the current collective bargaining agreement that could help facilitate a shortened season.

The source was granted anonymity because neither the CFL nor the CFLPA has confirmed the opt-out clause being available.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated an abbreviated season won’t begin until September at the earliest, and the league recently said all games would be played in Winnipeg. But Ambrosie also has said a cancelled campaign remains possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NFL’s amended CBA includes an opt-out clause for players. While those deciding not to play won’t get their entire 2020 salary, they’re eligible to receive a US$150,000 stipend.

On Saturday, Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a starting guard with the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs, became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season. Duvernay-Tardif, who graduated from McGill University’s medical school in 2018, spent time this off-season in Montreal working as an orderly at a long-term care facility.

A CFL player opting out won’t be paid, but the term of his contract would continue. So if the player was in the final year of his deal, he’d still be eligible to become a free agent in February.

CFL players — American and Canadian — certainly have plenty to consider if there’s a shortened season. The expectation is teams would play six regular-season games so players would have to weigh the risk of injury against doing so for as little as a third of their regular salary.

And whatever money a player paid into his pension this year wouldn’t be matched by the CFL, under an amended proposal. Traditionally, the league has equalled those contributions.

The league and CFLPA still are negotiating terms on a CBA.

For players working another job, there’s giving up consistent employment and being at home in favour of moving away for life in a hub and a drastically reduced football salary.

Americans have much more to consider because CFL contracts are paid in Canadian currency. So, for example, $30,000 paid for the six games translates to roughly US$22,100 before taxes and deductions.

And that’s for a pro-rated $90,000 salary. The CFL’s minimum stipend is $65,000.

But an amended CBA isn’t the biggest hurdle to an abbreviated season. There’s adhering to provincial/federal health-and-safety measures and securing much-needed funding from Ottawa.

Earlier this month, the CFL submitted a revised financial request to Ottawa for roughly $42.5 million in aid.

Ottawa is dealing with the league’s offer — regarded by many as essential for a shortened season — via the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). While it’s a federal agency, the BDC is also a crown corporation and can’t be mandated to financially assist the CFL by the federal government.

The BDC is essentially a bank with lending criteria and the CFL — which Ambrosie has said lost upwards of $20 million collectively last year — is unlikely to qualify given its current financial state. To secure assistance, essentially a loan, the league would likely require the Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. governments to provide some kind of guarantee on any aid, something a source has said Ottawa is trying to help facilitate.

Meanwhile, Canada’s chief public health officer said Ottawa is talks with the CFL about applying quarantine rules to returning American players that are similar to the cohort approach used by the NHL.

Dr. Theresa Tam said protocols the NHL has in place, which includes the concept of teams entering quarantine together, are being discussed with the CFL. But she couldn’t say how far talks have progressed.

The federal government approved a cohort quarantine approach for NHL teams entering Canada to resume the season in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. The teams are isolated from the general public in “bubbles,” and players can quarantine together instead of being subjected to the individual 14-day quarantine required of those crossing the international border.

“The same principles would apply in the discussions concerning the CFL and ensuring that the health and safety of Canadians are at the forefront and that any protocols put in place are there to mitigate any kind of transmission to the general population,” Tam said during a COVID-19 press conference.

“I do think that the kind of protocols that the NHL has in place, which includes the concept of quarantining the teams or cohorts is something that is being addressed in that context, so yes I do believe that kind of concept is sort of in discussion.”

Under the Manitoba government plan for a shortened season in Winnipeg, league players and coaches would be in a bubble consisting of hotels, practice fields and a stadium.

Players would have to isolate at home for 14 days prior to departing for Winnipeg. They’d be tested for the novel coronavirus upon their arrival then go into quarantine for another seven days before training camps could open.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

CFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New hospice suite officially opened at Points West Stettler on Aug. 7th

“As soon as you walk into it, it’s comfortable which makes it easier for a guest to settle into right away.”

Much to explore at the Big Valley Historical Society Museum

Plenty of history packed into a diverse and extensive collection

Update: Possible drowning at Pigeon Lake involved man and woman from Edmonton

Bodies recovered from Pigeon Lake’s northeastern shores.

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

13-year-old charged in death of boy, 10 in Maskwacis

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Most Read