College Athletes Get Closer to Unionizing

Members of the Northwestern football team filed papers with the National Labor Relations Board this week to make them official “employees.”

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Jan. 28, 2014, 7:06 a.m.

Col­lege ath­letes are not em­ploy­ees of their uni­versity. They don’t get paid. And more im­port­ant, they can’t uni­on­ize.

But that’s the real­ity foot­ball play­ers at North­west­ern Uni­versity are con­test­ing after seek­ing this week to be­come mem­bers of a uni­on in a fil­ing with the Na­tion­al Labor Re­la­tions Board.

The ath­letes wouldn’t ne­ces­sar­ily get paid, however. The goal be­hind this latest move is to seek bet­ter med­ic­al pro­tec­tions and guar­an­teed schol­ar­ships for the cost of col­lege. Cur­rently, schol­ar­ships are some­times res­cin­ded if a stu­dent ath­lete gets in­jured. By uni­on­iz­ing, the ath­letes also want to raise money to con­tin­ue their uni­versity edu­ca­tion, even after they’ve ex­hausted their NCAA eli­gib­il­ity.

North­west­ern quar­ter­back Kain Col­ter is lead­ing the ef­fort by an “over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity” of the foot­ball play­ers to join the Col­lege Ath­letes Play­ers As­so­ci­ation — a group that was foun­ded and led by former UCLA line­back­er Ramogi Huma. Col­ter filed pa­pers in Chica­go on Monday.

“This is about fi­nally giv­ing col­lege ath­letes a seat at the table,” Huma told ES­PN. “Ath­letes de­serve an equal voice when it comes to their phys­ic­al, aca­dem­ic, and fin­an­cial pro­tec­tions.”

The NCAA will likely op­pose the ac­tion, which would of­fi­cially uni­on­ize all men’s foot­ball and bas­ket­ball play­ers in Di­vi­sion I private uni­versit­ies. This means a court battle that will last for many years to come.

It looks that the state of uni­ons might be stronger for col­lege ath­letes.