TORONTO — The CFL Players’ Association fired back at the CFL on Thursday after the league criticized the group for grieving a two-game suspension handed to Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
The league suspended Lawrence on Monday for hitting Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collaros in the head during the league’s regular-season opener last week.
When the CFLPA decided to grieve it on Wednesday, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said, “The CFL is deeply disappointed that the CFLPA has decided to contest the league’s attempt to punish and deter a dangerous play.”
The CFLPA issued its own release on Thursday, criticizing the league.
“The commissioner’s public attack on the process and the rights allotted to all CFL players, as mutually agreed to in the collective agreement, is both disappointing and unhelpful,” the CFLPA said in a statement.
“There were two players involved in a play on opening night. One player was injured and the other has since been assessed a two-game suspension. Both players have rights, and both are members of the CFL Players’ Association.
“Our commitment to player safety must be balanced by our duty to ensure every player receives fair representation when these situations happen. Generally, players have not been treated equally and therefore unfairly by the process the commissioner currently follows in these instances.”
The CFLPA goes on to say Ambrosie’s statement is an attempt to “gain a public relations advantage during a difficult situation.”
As a result of the grievance, Lawrence is eligible to continue playing until an arbitration hearing is held. The Ticats visit the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.
Lawrence received a 25-yard roughing-the-passer penalty — one of three flags Hamilton took on Saskatchewan’s opening drive — as the Ticats went on to win 23-17 in the opener.
In its statement, the CFLPA says it pushed for the “CFL (to) adopt a system, currently used with success in the NFL, that would introduce fair and transparent protocols for players facing supplemental discipline.”
The CFLPA says the proposal “was rejected by the CFL, leaving the CFLPA to choose between its members, one injured and the other suspended.”
The CFL and CFLPA agreed on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement just before training camps started this year.
The CFL was not immediately available for comment.