Canadian players across the CFL are not happy.

Canadian players across the CFL are not happy.

It was announced late Wednesday night that the three-down league and the CFLPA had reached a tentative agreement on a new CBA.

It seemed to be widely celebrated at first, as Blue Bombers linebacker and CFLPA vice-president Adam Bighill considered the deal a victory for the players.

Those on the gridiron with Canadian passports, however, are not nearly as enthusiastic about it because of the Nationalized American rule that comes into effect in 2023. Instead of seven starting Canadians, there will be eight, but one of them can be an American with at least three years on the team or five or more in the league. No one is batting an eye at that, it’s the three additional Nationalized Americans that are ruffling feathers. Those three will be able to rotate with Canadians, but they can’t play more than 49 per cent of the snaps.

“I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s not fair to the Canadians. At the end of the day, you’ve got to compete and the best player out there is going to play. But it’s the CFL. The C stands for Canadian. It’s the Canadian Football League,” Bombers running back and Winnipegger Brady Oliveira told the Free Press after Friday’s practice at IG Field.

“The identity is the Canadian players of this league. The fans that have been watching this game for years, I mean, they come to watch Canadians. That’s who’s selling tickets. I understand if they want to add that nationalized American, that’s fine, but the fact that they want to rotate three guys… you’re taking a lot of reps away from Canadians.”

Montreal Alouettes’ CFLPA rep and Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie said Thursday he doesn’t support the new deal and believes there’s a chance it could get rejected once the players get to vote on it. Bombers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, who grew up in California but came to the Bombers in 2017 as a national since his mother is from Montreal, made his vote clear to the Free Press.

“If this passes, I’ve just got to keep competing man and keep doing my thing. There’s not much I can do about that. But yeah, obviously that’s not something I would like to vote yes for. That’s kind of just taking away a possible spot for me,” said Wolitarsky,

“Selfishly, I want to play on this team as long as I can and be a part of this organization.”

<p>MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>“I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s not fair to the Canadians,” Bombers running back and Winnipegger Brady Oliveira told the <em>Free Press</em> after Friday’s practice at IG Field.</p>

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

“I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s not fair to the Canadians,” Bombers running back and Winnipegger Brady Oliveira told the Free Press after Friday’s practice at IG Field.

The players’ strike lasted four days before a tentative agreement was reached. Although no one wants to go back to a work stoppage after only a few days back out on the field, the vote might be closer than some think.

“If the majority says yes, then we’re going to start playing. Obviously, I want to start playing, but at the same time, you gotta protect your livelihood, your family and all that stuff,” said Wolitarsky.

“There’s a lot that goes into it. We’ll see in a couple days.”

As for everything else in the CBA, Oliveira is a fan.

“It’s hard now because we’re out on the field, having so much fun, and have that itch to keep going and playing as the season is right around the corner. So, for us to ever stop again, it’d be very unfortunate. So, when the vote does come, that’s on guys’ minds like ‘Hey, we’re already on the field. Let’s just keep going,’” said Oliveira.

“But at the same time, for us Canadians, you’re going to see lots of us Canadians rallying together. I think you might see some Americans fighting with Canadians as well just to get a fair deal for us.”

The CFL’s original CBA offer — which was quickly declined — proposed they get rid of the ratio altogether and have a reduction of Canadian players on the roster. The tentative agreement is a big improvement on that, but the whole process has left Canadian talent feeling underappreciated and unwanted.

“It’s frustrating. You see across the league, there is a lot of great Canadian talent. I mean you look at our team, you’ve got (Wolitarsky), you’ve got (Nic) Demski, you’ve got Canadians all across our O-line. We’ve got studs that are homegrown Canadian and they’re trying to limit that,” said Oliveira.

“They’re trying to limit the amount of Canadians on the field and it sucks. It’s the Canadian Football League, our identity is the Canadians on this team, so we got to do something about it.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...