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Saskatchewan Roughriders react to new CFL COVID-19 policy

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo throws the ball during second half CFL football action against the Calgary Stampeders in Calgary, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press

The Canadian Football League hopes a new COVID-19 game cancellation policy will motivate players to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

The CFL shared in a statement on Tuesday that the new policy ties losses and lost pay to any game cancellations caused by COVID-19 issues.

“Our goal is to ensure we have zero game cancellations due to issues caused by an outbreak of COVID-19 within our football operations,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in the league’s statement.

“While this policy spells out what will happen if cancellations do occur, its main purpose is to encourage all of our players to get fully vaccinated in order to minimize the risk to our season and, most importantly, their health and safety.”

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For example, if one team is suffering from implications caused by COVID-19, and the game cannot be played as scheduled or rescheduled, then the club will forfeit the game and their opponent will be given a 1-0 win.

If both teams are reporting COVID-19 issues, then both organizations will forfeit and receive losses.

Additionally, if a team can prove that 85 per cent of its players under contract have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot, then the club’s players will receive their salary for the cancelled game. The entire team will not receive its salary if they are below the 85 per cent threshold.

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson admitted on Tuesday that they are not at 85 per cent, but he hopes that will change soon.

“Any time you have the haves and the have-nots, whether it be money or vaccinations, you risk dividing the room,” Dickenson told reporters.

“We have tried to be open-minded and very understanding of those who for some reason or another don’t want to get vaccinated. We want to encourage them and the main reason is we want them to be healthy and safe.”

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The league noted that 79 per cent of CFL players are either fully or partially vaccinated as of July 30 when teams reported roster cuts.

Three teams have more than 85 per cent of their players vaccinated, while the other six teams have vaccination rates anywhere from 67 per cent to 81 per cent.

One Roughrider who chose to roll up his sleeve during the offseason is quarterback Cody Fajardo.

“I got it because I believe it will help me stay healthy and not miss games so I can put myself in a situation to play in all 14 games this year,” Fajardo explained.

“My wife is also a doctor, so it also helps when you have a doctor in the family telling you that you should get the vaccine. It was a no-brainer for me.”

League-wide COVID-19 testing from July 15 to 30 showed there were zero positive test results for COVID-19 out of about 6,000 tests. The CFL said those tests were administered to players, coaches and support staff.

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