CFL pales financially in comparison with NFL
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
The CFL vs NFL debate has been flogged to death over the years and will likely never end. For my part though, as a diehard supporter of our own brand of football, I’ll take the three-down game over the non-stop two-yard plunges south of the border any day of the week. That said, this article isn’t comparing the entertainment value of the two leagues—rather, the financial compensation for their players.
When people hear the words “professional athlete,” they typically have dollar signs pop into their heads, and rightly so. A number of athletes make more in a year than the average person can hope to make in a lifetime. CFL players, however, don’t usually belong to this millionaires club. Most CFLers don’t have fancy homes or garages full of sports cars or luxury yachts. In fact, the majority of them hold down other jobs during the off-season.
Let’s let the numbers do the talking for a bit. In the CFL, the salary cap is $4.4 million; meanwhile, the NFL’s is $133 million. CFL practice squad players make an average of $600 a week. NFL practice squad players make $6,000 a week. If every CFLer got an even cut of the cap, their salaries would be just north of $83,000, though due to star players making a good deal more (QB’s typically make between $250,000 and $400,000), your average player is hovering around $50,000—the NFL rookie minimum salary is $405,000. There is no such thing as a guaranteed contract in the CFL but there is in the NFL—in other words, no job security north of the 49th.
Summing it all up, quarterbacks aside, if a player in the CFL is really good and can stay healthy, he might make over a million dollars in his career. And when that career is over, he’ll have a battered and beaten body with which to find a new job. Others aren’t as lucky. A good recent example is Stu Foord, formerly of the BC Lions. The tough running back has been in the league for a few years and found most of his work on special teams. Last year he ripped up his knee and tore his ACL in September. While initial surgery was done almost immediately, the damage was so excessive that he’s had to wait until this month to completely repair it. With the recovery time for an ACL often being at least half a year, Foord would be lucky to get back in shape for a team’s playoff run, and that’s only if he makes an Adrian Peterson-like recovery. End result is a man earning around $50,000 a year missing out on an entire season. With a wealth of NFL rejects and college recruits joining the league each year, it could very well be the end of Foord’s career.
CFLers are professional athletes, but with the money they make, it’s clear most of them aren’t in it for the financial side of things. Jumps to a lucrative NFL contract are rare, and often don’t work out. It’s a phrase generally avoided in the world of pro sports, but the beauty of the CFL is that most of these guys, whether for a season or 10, are in it for love of the game.