CFL players vote to reject new contract with league

TORONTO — CFL players have rejected the new collective bargaining agreement with the league.

According to the source, CFL players voted against ratifying the tentative deal reached between the league and the CFL Players’ Association on Wednesday. The source spoke on condition of anonymity Monday as neither the CFL nor the CFL Players’ Association immediately confirmed the vote.

News of the rejection comes as a bit of a surprise, however, as one team — the Edmonton Elks, according to another source — was still voting on the deal.

The CFL and CFLPA reached a tentative seven-year agreement on Wednesday, four days after players from seven of the league’s nine teams went on strike. It was only the second work stoppage in league history and the first since 1974.

The CFLPA executive recommended going through with the deal, which included an increase in the CFL salary cap ($100,000 annually beginning next year) and minimum salary (from $65,000 to $75,000 by 2027). It also included a revenue-sharing formula for the union and gave players the option to have the final year of their contracts guaranteed with up to 50 percent.

And while the CBA called for a return to padded drills — one hour a week during the regular season to a maximum of 12 — it extended medical coverage for retired players from three to five years.

The deal also called for increasing the number of Canadian starters from seven to eight, but that would include one nationalized Canadian — an American who has either spent five years in the CFL or at least three years on the same team. Additionally, three other nationalized Canadians were able to play up to 49 percent of all snaps on either side of the ball.

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And that bothered many current Canadian players, to the point where there were legitimate concerns about whether the CBA would be ratified. The rejection of the agreement only creates more uncertainty as the exhibition season – which had been altered due to the earlier suspension – is due to start with two games on Friday night.

The regular season is scheduled to begin on June 9th.

What’s unclear now is what’s next and whether the players will immediately go on strike again, continue practicing under the former CBA while the union and league return to the negotiating table, or be locked out of the league? It is also not known if the CFLPA’s negotiating unit will remain intact or if the players’ rejection of the agreement it endorsed will mean changes within that negotiating team.

Toronto Argonauts linebacker Henoc Muamba (10) runs with the ball against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, during final action of the CFL Eastern Conference in the first half on Sunday, December 5, 2021 in Toronto.

Gray Cup champions Winnipeg Blue Bombers plan to practice as usual on Tuesday with players expected to attend based on communications with the club’s PA officials.

And Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence suggested on social media that he will be back on Tuesday as well.

“I’m at work Tomro!” he wrote on Twitter Monday night.

Earlier Monday – before it was announced the CBA had been rejected – CFLPA Executive Member Henoc Muamba said while the tentative deal had his support, if it wasn’t good enough for a majority of union members he would be willing to go back to it negotiating table on their behalf.

“As a team representative and also (union) vice president, I try to have a good feeling for the space,” said Muamba. “I’ve had a lot of great conversations with a couple of guys over the past few days.

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“The hardest thing about a committee is you have to be able to have representation, but you also want to have a good feel for the lads in the dressing room. You want to have good communication with them so you can represent them as best you can. When things change, well listen, you have to be able to adapt on the fly.”

Muamba joined the CFLPA hierarchy in Montreal on Friday to discuss the deal with players. Muamba is not only a former Alouette, but also speaks both official languages.

The visit came after Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie, a player representative for the Alouettes, suggested the agreement could be rejected.

Toronto was one of seven teams that started training camp Thursday — Edmonton and Calgary signed up for the May 15 start because they weren’t in a legal strike position at the time. Before it was revealed that the deal had been rejected, Muamba said that if that were indeed the case, the union would try to get contract negotiations going, buoyed by the knowledge that this is what most members want.

“I think the committee will feel more comfortable moving forward knowing that they have the strength and trust of members behind them,” he said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 23, 2022.

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