The Northwestern University players made waves in the NCAA community, winning a case allowing the team to form a union. The decision was made by Peter sung Ohr, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Illinois. The NCAA are looking to appeal the ruling and classifies the players as student athletes and not university workers. While this ruling was made for a private university, the potential of this being only the beginning seems to grow more and more with the passing day. Many members of the media, as well as the coach of the Northwestern team have all been opposed of the ruling. NFL players, among others, are standing to support not only the young men in this suit, but any other players that wish to go the same route.
The players are set to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union on April 25th. The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University football players that are currently on athletic scholarships are in fact employees of the university and their union election can continue. As the College Athletic Players Association preliminarily formed, the eyes and attention from NCAA directors, players, and all involved will be focused on the court as the NCAA continues to battle the recent ruling.
Newly elected interim CAPA president Ramogi Huma, along with former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, has emphasised many times that their goal is not primarily for salaries and payouts, but for expanded medical care and continuing education. Many athletes after graduating who suffered from sustain injuries while playing for NCAA schools have had to personally fund their long term recovery or adjust to a different way of life due to an injury. While NCAA does have regulations on the long term health of its student athletes, it doesn’t extend far long after the game is over when the athletes might still need treatment.
Adrian Peterson is one of many who spoke in support of the college athletes. Peterson express his feelings on a conference call with the media, believing the players should have the right to a portion of the revenue that is being brought in by the schools and university. The Minnesota Vikings running back also brought up how Johnny Manziel helped Texas A&M to a higher financial state and if Lebron James would have been forced to go to school two years prior to joining the NBA, the university he would have been recruited to would have made money off of him. Peterson is not alone with his support to the Northwestern football players and the players involved have gain more traction for their fight everyday.
NFLPA’s president DeMaurice Smith wrote to the Huffington Post in support of the newly introduced College Athletic Players Association. Smith addressed in his letter of players not having enough access to medical discussions and talks for adjustments on full medical coverage for injuries even after football is over. Other issues such as scholarship shortfalls, practice time, and travel time that interferes with education have been overlooked and although it is a problem for the athletes, its not a priority for the NCAA.
While the Northwestern football players gain support for the unionization, many court battles seems to be in the future of the team. With all the negativity and hurtful comments slung in the direction of the college students, including threats of job opportunities being taken away after graduation, its not hard to understand why current professional players would defend the students in the suit. Being former college players themselves, many in the pros are on the side of Northwestern players. While the months ahead looks tough, at least the students know they are not alone in this fight.
Commentary by Hector Carrion