Friday, April 25, 2014

A historic day: Northwestern football players vote on union representation

No matter what their highlight reel looks like, the biggest play made by the Northwestern University football team this year is happening off the gridiron. For the first time in the history of the NCAA, players cast votes on whether they will be represented by a union.

College sports are extremely popular in America. Collectively, it is a multibillion dollar business. Coaches at the helms of these programs receive multimillion dollar salaries and plush benefits. Pat Fitzgerald, the head football coach at Northwestern, makes over $2.2 million dollars. But what do the players, the engine in the vehicle that is the NCAA, get from this? An education, rife with limitations on majors and the potential for fraud or abuse. Injuries that can linger for a lifetime and are not covered by the NCAA.

The NCAA is exploiting these kids to the point that, even after winning a championship, they go to bed without food in their stomach.

The National Labor Relations Board has begun to fix this situation. A landmark ruling gave these players a profound choice: the option to join their professional counterparts, unionize and negotiate for better healthcare, stipends to cover the full cost of an education, and revenue from the video games and jerseys sold in their name. Many of these student athletes come from tough economic backgrounds and they rightly see athletics as a way to empower themselves.

We won't know for a while what the outcome is, but we're sure looking forward to finding out.