With emotions over Saturday's tentative five-year collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and the Players Association running high, the union has decided to act in an attempt to cool any tension.
Sources tell TSN that union executives travelled to select CFL cities Monday to open dialogue with players and answer questions.
After the tentative deal was reached Saturday night, several players posted messages of frustration and disappointment on social media - and that carried over into Sunday on both the web and the field. One source emphasized the purpose of the executives' trips wasn't to convince players to vote for the tentative CBA, but for executives to "show face" with players in the hopes of, "bridging a gap in communication."
On Saturday, the Players' Association's team representatives held a conference call to measure the emotions of players across the league.
"Personally, I think the right move is to ratify [the tentative deal]," Hamilton Tiger-Cats representative Peter Dyakowski said Monday when asked how anxious he was for a ratification vote. "However, I've seen a lot of people disagree with that."
The ultimate goal of the executive's outreach, whether explicitly stated or not, is to secure a majority "Yes" vote in ratification, which is set to take place in the coming days. TSN has learned that the Players' Association is trying to expedite the process of obtaining a physical copy of the tentative deal in the next couple of days to pass it along to its members, who can then read it over and ask any questions to clarify concerns.
Right now, legal counsel for both the league and the players are reviewing and solidifying language in the potential agreement.
The earliest the players hope to hold a ratification vote is Wednesday, and the union would require six of the league's nine teams voting in favour - with players on each team voting 50 per cent-plus-one to ratify the agreement - for the tentative CBA to pass. All players, rookies included, will be allowed to cast a ballot. TSN has also learned that prominent CFL agents are encouraging their clients to accept the tentative CBA.
"But a vote to reject the tentative CBA is not a vote to strike," a player with knowledge of the ratification process told TSN. Strike ballots from all nine CFL teams have been counted already, with a majority of players across the CFL voting in favour of a strike.
If the tentative CBA is rejected, the union will notify the CFL and attempt to reopen negotiations with the league.
"I think if we look at this deal through the lens of what some teams are making, and what our new TV deal is bringing in, and what we see the future holding for us, it doesn't seem like a fair deal, or a just deal," Dyakowski said. "But if you look at it compared to our last two CBAs, in a vacuum, and look at the numbers we have made huge strides."
In the last year of the CFL's previous CBA, the salary cap was set at $4.4 million and the minimum salary was set at $45,000. In the first year of the tentative CBA, the salary cap would be set at $5 million and increase annually by $50,000, with minimum salaries rising to $50,000. Also included are the elimination of the team option year in non-rookie contracts, and a ratification bonus of $7,500 for veterans and $1,500 for rookies. The CFLPA will reportedly control the disbursement of the bonus, and set a veteran scale that could potentially award players who've played six-plus years in the league $12,000.
"We have made huge improvements; we have won on a lot of football-related issues, a lot of player safety issues," added Dyakowski. "There are a lot of good things in this deal being realistic, being pragmatic. I believe this is a good deal, without any bloodshed."
According to reports, Roughriders union representative Brendon LaBatte feels Saskatchewan's locker room will vote to ratify the tentative agreement. But LaBatte knows of vets in the room willing to sit out the season and miss pay checks because they feel the possible deal isn't good enough.
And again, there was vexation over social media, as one player in particular took to Twitter to voice his disapproval of the union executive's team visits.
"Just wasting more of our Union Dues...Ain't nobody in Saskatchewan wanna see them, hope they bring their own security," tweeted Ricky Foley of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The defensive lineman tweeted later, "I am voting YES to accept the deal & NOT strike...cause we've been backed in2 a corner & I have no confidence in our execs or legal counsel."
Although he knows how his locker room feels, Dyakowski isn't sure how players across the league will vote when it's time for them to cast their ballots.
"I feel in my gut that [the tentative CBA] will be ratified in Hamilton," the offensive lineman said. "That's all I can say."