CFLs understand baseball strike, but it's not for them

August 17, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

They are worlds -- and millions of dollars -- apart, so don't expect to see the Baltimore CFLs in strike formation any time soon, a la the Orioles.

The Canadian Football League's collective bargaining agreement expires before next season, but strike is not in the union vocabulary.

"We don't have a pension strike fund," said rush end O. J. Brigance. "And there wouldn't be any benefit to strike. If we strike, they'd find someone else to fill the spots, and the games would go on."

Aside from location, the only connection between the CFLs and the Orioles is that they both play for pay -- although in the CFLs' case, it's stretching the point.

Major League Baseball's minimum salary, for instance, is $109,000. Minimum salary in the CFL is $26,000.

Nevertheless, CFLs quarterback Tracy Ham said he can appreciate the Orioles' predicament.

"Being in a similar situation as a player, I can understand their position," Ham said. "Regardless of the money involved, they have a legitimate position.

"As an athlete, you are a commodity. No one sees the flip side when you can't play anymore. The reality of it is, you can only play so long, and obviously you want to make as much money as you can."

The key issue in baseball's labor war is the salary cap that management wants to impose.

The CFL already labors under one -- and players had no say when it was implemented with a league resolution in 1992.

"We had no vote," said nose tackle Jearld Baylis, a seven-year CFL veteran and the CFLs' player representative with Ham. "Why, I have no idea. That's why we never strike. We don't have unity. The players association is not strong enough."

And if you're looking for a precedent for what might happen under the salary cap, Brigance says you need look no further than the NFL.

"The NFL put in a salary cap, and you can see it hurt the players," he said.

As far as the next contract negotiation, Baylis almost can see his way to militancy. "The circumstances are right for us to strike," he said, "because we've got them [owners] caught between a rock and a hard stone with expansion.

"It was brought up as being an option at our last meeting. But me personally, I can't really conceive it happening. Not at this point in time."

The CFL's labor history suggests that the players will wind up on the short end again next season.

"We always end up getting something cut," said Ham, who said he lost $10,000 in 1987, when each player had a percentage of his salary cut in an attempt to rescue the Montreal Alouettes, who folded, anyway.

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