It’s time for some serious reflection if professional football is going to survive and thrive in Canada.
The realistic question, which few want to really grapple with is this, “how do we make the CFL sustainable long term?” Of course, it is accompanied by a concern with short-term profitability. Red ink can sink a ship before it ever sees the long-term.
One thing the league did recently was start a “global initiative,” designed to not only raise the league’s profile abroad, but to make it more attractive to recently arriving first and second-generation Canadians, who see and hear representation in the faces and voices of players born abroad. The initiative is still controversial in some quarters, but I support it, 100 percent.
You see, although I’m from the states, I’m a longtime CFL fan and Canadaphile. I went to grad school in Canada and, at my suggestion, my nephew played his prep basketball at Athlete Institute.
When I attended his basketball tournaments, I saw how much newly emerging Canadian communities were gravitating to basketball. Marginalized, and previously marginalized communities saw representation in players like Pascal Siakam, and the players on the prep courts reflected that.
These were not people who are traditionally CFL fans, and don’t look like them. They are not the Hockey Night In Canada crowd of my youth. Honestly, some of those tournaments — again, at the prep level — drew crowds nearly as large as CFL games I’ve attended.
In an attempt to be forward-looking and envision the game’s future, the league understood that the global initiative would grant a type of representation that would open it to new fans, expanding the base. That’s why the ratio-reduction measures baffle me.
The ratio gives, for example, a Punjabi Canadian a chance of making the CFL. It gives all Canadians a shot at playing in the league. It is in sync with global initiative-thinking to maintain the ratio, and reimagine it as part of a new domestic initiative to grow grassroots outreach to Canadians both in emerging and traditional communities.
I’d love to talk with league or player association representatives about time-tested and proven outreach methods that have long been a part of my success in varied professional capacities. We should be able to come together to make new and profitable investments that help everyone in the short term and enhance sustainability.
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