Labour Day in the Canadian Football League (CFL) is marked by tradition, rivalries, and some of the season’s most anticipated matchups. However, this year’s Classic between the Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Elks took a contentious turn, largely due to air quality concerns. This article delves into the disagreements between the CFL Players Association (CFLPA) and the league’s administration over how the situation was handled.
A Broken Agreement: The CFLPA’s Stance
Brian Ramsey, executive director of the CFLPA, stated that the league “broke the agreement” regarding stopping games when air quality levels are deemed high-risk. Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index readings in Calgary oscillated between 8-10 on the day of the game, signaling high risk to health. Ramsey said, “We expressed our concern to the CFL prior to the game [and] demanded that they remove the players from the field.”
Players’ Health at Risk
The players were not oblivious to the challenging conditions. Players noticed the smoky conditions during the game, raising concerns about long-term impacts on their respiratory systems. Ramsey mentioned that the CFLPA has plans to address these concerns with the Occupational Health and Safety Centre in Alberta and meet with the CFL commissioner.
The League’s Response
On the other side, Lucas Barrett, the associate vice president of communications and public affairs with the CFL, pointed out that local air quality readings taken inside McMahon Stadium were moderate. Barrett stated, “Beginning at noon [on Monday], air quality readings were taken inside McMahon Stadium every 30 minutes until the conclusion of the game. Each of those readings was shared with the League Office, the CFLPA, and the two competing teams.”
Concerns over air quality aren’t new to the CFL. The issue has repeatedly surfaced since 2019 due to wildfires across the country. Both the Stampeders and Elks, who sit at the bottom of the CFL’s West Division, have experienced this issue in recent seasons. Ramsey hopes that upcoming meetings will “ensure that this never happens again.”
As we move towards the latter half of the CFL season, the spotlight on player safety and air quality can’t be ignored. The disagreement between the CFL and the CFLPA raises vital questions about how the league handles player welfare, especially when environmental conditions pose a significant risk.
The outcome of the impending meeting between the CFLPA and the CFL commissioner may set a precedent for how similar situations are managed in the future.
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