Northwestern University football players free to unionize

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LOS ANGELES, March 26, 2014 — “Live better/work union” can now be an official recruiting tool for Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald. According to CNN, college football players at Northwestern University have won the right to unionize, a move that could open the door to a variety changes for college athletics in the future.

The ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago to recognize the players as employees will be appealed by Northwestern University. The school contends that the players are student-athletes, not employees.

This is a ruling that, if upheld, could spread to the other schools. The players who unionize are going to be seeking changes that favor the players and not necessarily the institution, such as better medical care and getting paid as employees.

It has long been argued that if colleges are going to be making millions of dollars off these kids and are finding ways to cheat the system and give under-the-table payments to players anyway, why not just make it legal to pay the players? Now, the players will have a seat and not ask, but demand to be paid.


It is only a matter of time before this issue comes to a head in college sports. Players will want their money and they will have the support of a union behind them. Jack Grisham from the punk band T.S.O.L. said, “You can have an idea, but without muscle, you have no idea.” A players’ union is all the muscle needed to affect change in favor of the players in any given sport.

NCAA football will be no different.

With this new bargaining power, the possibility of strikes will now loom over labor negotiations. College athletics is on the verge of entering the age of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

College football has always been a business, but now it could be forced to be a more like other businesses and actually pay their employees. This is good for college football. This is great for college football players at Northwestern University. Ultimately, this will be great for all college athletes.

On the other hand, Northwestern could win an appeal of this ruling and this will turn out to be much ado about nothing. Time will tell, but the tide definitely is turning. This conversation does not end here either way.

Instead of fighting the inevitable, Northwestern University should take the reigns and be the first to usher in a new age in college football. Northwestern can be the leader and embrace the age of the unionized student-athlete.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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  • EMGoldstein84

    College athletics is business. Big business if you realize that the head coaches are paid millions and are the highest paid employee of the state. I dislike unions, but this ruling is due to the NCAA keeping a chokehold on the golden goose. The term “student athlete” in division one schools is a joke. When you have graduation rates below 30%, you clearly are not bringing scholars in to represent the school on the playing field. Call them what they are – gladiators. Pay them a reasonable wage and have tuition as a benefit in their contract.

  • lhs325

    I worry about the non revenue sports!

    • Perhaps the student athletic union organizations will help subsidize the non-revenue sports, where there are kids really trying to play their way to an education and nothing more.

      • lhs325

        if it comes to pass, I hope you are right but I don’t believe it . Greed and money are eveil bedfellows.

  • bikerdogred1

    And being good union men they can only play other union men so where is this going to get them.

  • day2knight

    If this stands the NFLs free ride of using the colleges as a farm system will be over.

  • It’s time to get real about the kind of farm system commerce going on in college athletics on behalf of the NFL and NBA. The shot across the bow fired in the Northwestern University case comes from a direction I didn’t expect, but this was inevitable. These programs exist to make money for the schools, not to provide “educational opportunities” via athletic scholarships. Johnny Manziel’s little debacle about signing autographs for pay (allegedly) will seem quaint once everyone is honest and it’s all brought out into the open.

  • Derrick McBroom

    If they are going to get paid give them enough for meals and a little extra spending money so they don’t have to find a job while in college and can focus on football and grades….but giving them a free scholarship is pretty much paying them to play.

  • Joseph Pianta

    so when do they start paying taxes on their ‘earnings’ the Olympic winners have to on their medals.