CFL players’ comments suggest CBA ratification isn’t a sure thing, but it may still happen

55 Yard Line

While executives from the CFL and its players' association were able to come to a tentative deal Saturday night, that deal still awaits ratification from both sides (which there's no firm timeline on yet), and that vote may be anything but a formality for the players. The new deal has the exact same cap ceiling ($5 million in 2014) as the "best and final offer" the CFL proposed and the players rejected on May 29, and while it involves some other gains for the players, they didn't get anything near what they were asking for on most fronts. That's resulted in plenty of prominent players tweeting angrily about the proposed deal over the last few days, with some saying they'll vote no on ratification. Here's a brief sampling:

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Meanwhile, others have expressed their views through the media:

Particularly notable comments came from Stampeders' receiver Nik Lewis:

“It’s like your dad saying, ‘I’m going to get you a car,’ and he brings home a bicycle,” Lewis said after a heated players’ meeting — punctuated by emotional outbursts — to discuss the terms of the new deal. “When you believe you’re getting more and you don’t, it kinda makes it bad.” ...

When asked Sunday if he’ll vote against the deal, Lewis replied in the absolute affirmative.

“Hell yeah,” he said. “It’s a no . . . I’m still ready to strike.

That doesn't mean the players will fail to ratify the deal, though. It's notable that there have also been plenty of players saying they just want to get the season started:

And even Foley, one of the most passionate critics of the deal, said he'll probably vote for it:

It does look like the potential divide anticipated in the union between long-term and short-term CFL players has come to life. In particular, this deal may be approved by newer CFL players who are on minimum or close-to-minimum contracts. According to Drew Edwards, all players (including rookies, who aren't currently CFLPA members) will vote on this, and that means there will be plenty of new voters in the minimum-contract camp. They have little to gain in the short term from holding out further (even the CFLPA's proposals generally featured a $50,000 minimum salary, the same level as what this proposal has), and many of them aren't planning to be in the league for the long term, instead hoping to use it as a springboard to the NFL and the massive salaries there. In order to do that, they need to get on the field as soon as possible to establish themselves in their teams and start building their highlight reels. A labour dispute gets in the way of that, and many of these guys don't want to jeopardize future millions for the sake of making a few thousands more now.

Of course, most of those players won't actually make it to the NFL and get those millions. Only a few CFLers earn NFL tryouts each year, and many of those lucky ones don't survive training camp. The CFL sells the illusion of NFL hope, though, and it's currently doing a better job of that than any other football league. For players with NFL dreams, a long CFL strike simply isn't worth it. They're not particularly concerned about how the CFL and its players will do in the long term; they want to play now. It's notable that the league's offer also carries one player-requested provision that will strongly appeal to this crowd, the elimination of two-year-minimum contracts for veterans; thus, if a player can't quite earn an NFL shot off his two-year rookie contract, he can now re-up in the CFL for just one year instead of two. That may make more difference to players here for the short term than any changes in the salary cap.

There's no guarantee this deal will be ratified, and the wild card here may be how discussions inside locker rooms go. There's obviously lots of passion on the anti-ratification side, so if those players are able to sway substantial numbers of the undecided, the vote may fail. The inclusion of rookies means there are tons of players on minimum contracts voting, though, and with those guys (and some veterans) eager to get on the field and start earning game cheques, the balance of probabilities would seem to be in favour of ratification. Anything can happen in the last few minutes in the CFL, though, so celebrations of labour peace shouldn't start just yet.

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