CFL fined more than 20 players in Grey Cup for sock violations

CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Just days after publicly declaring there is no link between the game of football, and neurodegenerative diseases that have been found in brains of more than 200 deceased football players, the CFL put its focus on an apparent new priority.

Socks.

Documents obtained by Sportsnet show commissioner Jeffrey Orridge fined more than 20 of the 88 players who suited up in this year’s Grey Cup because of violations related to how they wore their socks in the game.

The fine notice was sent to the players on Dec. 2, five days after this year’s CFL championship – a thriller that was decided in overtime. While the league has a dress code policy, multiple sources that Sportsnet contacted had never heard of so many players being slapped with fines for such a minor issue.

“It was a great game to cap a great season for our league. Then you see that the next week, and it’s one step forward and two steps back,” Brian Ramsay, the executive director of the CFL Players’ Association, told Sportsnet in an interview.

The memo, sent and signed off on by Commissioner Orridge, adds this warning: “Please also be advised that any future violations of the Dress Code Policy will result in more substantial fines being assessed against you.”

CFLPA president Jeff Keeping, who has been playing in the CFL since 2005, was floored when he saw that so many of the players in the game were being fined.

“If there’s a message to send our players, let’s talk about it,” he said. “We want to have open lines of communication so the league can let us know what they think we can do better to help our game. But socks?”

The CFL did not respond to requests for comment.

The CFLPA held its first Grey Cup news conference this year, and did so just hours after Orridge declared “the League's position is that there is no conclusive evidence,” between football and brain diseases such as CTE, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ramsay and the players union at the time called Orridge’s comments “disappointing and frustrating.” Seven days later came the fines from the commissioner’s office regarding how Stampeders and Redblacks players wore their socks.

“We come out of serious conversations on both sides, stances on important topics for both sides,” Ramsay said Wednesday. “And you come out the next week with that?

“We are actively trying to discuss other topics that are important, then this comes across.”

It’s believed two other players were fined for wearing improper footwear, violating a CFL sponsor agreement with Adidas. In the fine notice Orridge wrote, “all players are expected to comply with the Dress Code Policy in efforts to maintain a professional and uniform appearance while on the field.”

Just yesterday, Keeping attended the governor general’s conference on concussions in sport that drew representatives from the Olympic and Paralympic movement, professional sports and the medical community. Former CFLers Matt Dunigan and Etienne Boulay spoke, so too did ex-NHL stars Eric Lindros and Ken Dryden.

“The title of the conference was ‘We Can Do Better’ and I believe that to be true in our game and we have the responsibility to do so, together,” said Keeping.

The collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and its players expires in the spring of 2019.