CFL players not happy about having to wait for their off-season bonuses

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Calgary Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes (30) celebrates a kick with punter Rob Maver (6) against the Ottawa Redblacks. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Rob Maver says CFL players aren’t a happy bunch as their union continues preparations for the start of collective bargaining negotiation with the league.

The CFL Players’ Association and CFL will formally begin contract talks March 11-12 in Toronto. The union is holding its annual general meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont., and will conclude the gathering Saturday.

A huge bone of contention for CFL players is the league having instructed its teams to not pay them off-season bonuses until after new agreement is ratified. The present deal is scheduled to expire May 15.

The CFLPA believes the CFL’s stance is a move to force players into quickly adopting a new agreement. But Maver, a Calgary Stampeders player rep, said all it’s done is irk the union membership.

"Guys are angry about it, this is money that’s been agreed upon previously and the optics of this are bad," Maver said during a conference call Friday following the second day of the AGM. "They’re trying to get something done quickly and they know this is a way they could potentially go about doing it.

"It’s not like CFL players are going to Vegas and posting pictures of them holding stacks of bills like Evander Kane did when the NHL locked out (its players in 2012-13). These are guys that are struggling to make ends meet so the fact the league is going back and failing to honour signed contracts has frankly pissed a lot of people off."

Kane, then with the Winnipeg Jets, created quite a stir when he tweeted a photo of himself with wads of cash atop a Las Vegas rooftop. It showed him pretending to use the money as a phone to call boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Quarterback Trevor Harris, a former Ottawa Redblacks player rep who signed as a free agent this off-season with the Edmonton Eskimos, echoed Maver’s sentiments.

"It feels like not a great deal for us and some of the guys have been upset about it but here we are," he said. "We’re doing the best we can right now and all we can to bring a good deal to the table."

The beginning of contract talks will give the CFL and its players less than three months to strike a deal without impacting the start of the regular season. The ’19 campaign is scheduled to open June 13 in Hamilton with the Tiger-Cats hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"I understand the value of being fully prepared and that things can happen between now and training camp," Maver said. "If we rush to the table too soon, we are limiting the opportunities that we’re able to get a fair shake at."

Case and point is CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie long-term vision for the league. This off-season, Ambrosie has secured partnerships with football associations in Mexico and eight European countries and Ambrosie has said there’s potential for the league to reach television agreements with some of its new partners.

With talks starting later this month, Maver said that’s something that can definitely be included in contract negotiations.

While players aren’t happy about having not yet received their off-season bonuses, Harris said the mood at the AGM has been one of calm.

"I think the guys in the room are all united and we’re excited to be in there talking about this so we can bring a fair and respectable (offer) to the table," he said. "We want to make sure we’re doing the best we can for the players to protect the league and players."

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