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Northwestern University Football Team Unionizes

Posted 3/27/2014 2:00 pm by

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They earn thousands of dollars in benefits, from food to clothes to education.  They work anywhere from 20 to 50 hours a week.  They bring in millions of dollars in revenues to their school and their athletic conference.  They’re the average Division I men’s football program, and they’re one injury away from death or permanent disability on any given Saturday.  However, they can find themselves cut from the team without warning, losing medical benefits, housing, education stipend, and more, so a group of football players banded together, filed a lawsuit, and have decided to form a union.  The Chicago branch of the National Labor Relations Bureau has sided with the athletes over the objections of the NCAA.  Northwestern’s football team can unionize, according to the NLRB.

The slippery slope is now Northwestern’s football team can potentially negotiate for actual money, rather than just free food and several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of room and board and education expenses that most folks could only dream of.  The NCAA is taking steps to shield itself from having to pay athletes, closing its online store and ending NCAA video game sales, but it might be too late.  Still, the NCAA is saving their amateurism banner, shouting about Title IX requirements ruining universities, and otherwise trying to pretend they’re not making billions off the backs of a bunch of adults who are significantly more valuable to them than the average student, if only from a PR standpoint.

“We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid,” said a statement from NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy.  “While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college.  We want student-athletes — 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues — focused on what matters most — finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.”

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