EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — An overwhelming majority of Northwestern football players formally filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to form their own union, which would also include the men’s basketball team.
As CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports, the Wildcats want to be recognized as employees and receive the rights and benefits afforded to regular workers.
Recent graduate and former quarterback Kain Colter was once the face of Northwestern football. Now he’s the face of a first-of-its-kind labor union, hoping to protect the future of all college athletes.
“The goal is to get the players a voice,” Colter said. “We don’t have a voice. It’s a dictatorship where everything is put on us without our input, without a negotiation right now we just want a seat at the table.”
At the forefront of the movement is guaranteed medical coverage for current and former players, concussion prevention, increased graduation rates and compensation for commercial sponsorships.
“Players put a lot on the line,” said Ramogi Huma, National College Players Association President. “If you get hurt in school colors, just because someone labels you as an amateur doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taken care of for that injury, when there is a multi-billion dollar industry.”
“We need the same protection that the NBA and NFL players have with the players’ association,” added Colter.
The big question is whether a college athlete is more like an employee than a student
“They spend over 40 hours per week in their sport, workout year-round – including so-called voluntary workouts – and they are told when and what to eat, told where they can and can’t live,” said Tim Waters of the United Steelworkers Union. “Football players aren’t complaining about this arrangement, they are identifying this very simply as pay for play.”
The NCAA disagreed and said in a statement: “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary.”
Northwestern issued a statement lauding the student-athletes for standing up for college athletics, but the school disagrees with their course of action. There will be legal challenges and this will likely take months, if not years, to play out.