New Canadian Football League (CFL) commissioner Jeffrey Orridge and Toronto Argonauts vice-chairman Michael “Pinball” Clemons have a few things in common.
Born in the United States, they are permanent residents who have expressed a desire in becoming Canadian citizens.
Orridge is the league’s first Black commissioner, while Clemons was the first Black to appear in a Grey Cup championship and win it the same year.
They also have an admiration for the CFL meritocracy.
“The thing I like about this league and this country is that you actually advance based on merit,” said Clemons, who was drafted by the National Football League’s (NFL) Kansas City Chiefs in 1987.
Appearing in just eight games predominantly as a punt returner, his game flourished when he came to the CFL two years later. In 1990, he set the single-season record for all-purpose yards (3,840) and was twice named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Clemons, who also set several Argos records in an outstanding 12-year career and was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 2008, hailed Orridge’s appointment.
“To see someone who speaks so well and has done so much is quite refreshing,” Clemons told Share this week. “There is a lot of work ahead, but I couldn’t be happier. While we are excited, we cheer and we celebrate, we also must be there to support him. He has the skills and tools, but we need to show we are there for him. We must do everything we can to help make sure that he’s successful. It’s not just about his achievement. It’s about his legacy and we want to make that even stronger than the achievement.”
Clemons said the Argos’ future will be Orridge’s main challenge when he steps into the new job on April 29.
David Braley has been desperately trying to sell the franchise that will be without a home when its contract with Rogers Centre runs out in 2017.
“The new commissioner’s immediate challenge is obviously right here in this marketplace,” said Clemons. “We have a Toronto team that’s in a stadium situation that has not worked for it. It’s actually just a bad business model because of the over-runs of the Rogers Centre. All of the revenue lines were farmed out. You don’t have parking revenue and you don’t have naming rights revenues and all of those important things. On top of that, this fabulous stadium that they built all of a sudden got a black eye. With the business model failing, no one can reinvest into the team. Any investment being made is to cover losses.”