Five questions raised by the unionization of Northwestern football players

When the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the football players at Northwestern University could unionize left everyone stunned. Not many people expected that the college athletes would qualify under the legal definition of “employee”, and therefore wouldn’t have the right to unionize. Apparently, the NLRB felt differently.

The NCAA issued a laughable statement when it was announced that the players were looking at unionizing back in January; while Northwestern issued a very supportive one.  It’ll be interesting to see what the NCAA has to say now that the NLRB has agreed with the student athletes….and not the billion dollar “amateur” sports commission.

There are many questions that have been asked as a result of this unionization, and we will take a look at five of the more prevalent ones…from least prevalent to most:

5) Could this mean NCAA sports video games might return?

EA Sports stopped making these games because of the Edward O’Bannon lawsuit — O’Bannon sued the NCAA on behalf of the current student athletes for using their likeness for commercial purposes, including video game rights. The video game corporation probably feared being named in the lawsuits by past, current, and future student athletes that made an appearance in the games.

With the unionization of Northwestern players, there is a possibility that the games could return…if EA Sports is willing to negotiate with the players union.

4) What does this mean for the colleges?

It means that all the talk regarding the potential separation of the power five conferences from the NCAA needs to slow down. The colleges are going to need something to tame the beast they’ve created; because, let’s face it, the NCAA has become a flaming pile of crap that creates one public relations disaster after another.

And you have to think that allowing the athletes to have a say in the

3) What do the players want?

The players ultimately want more of a say in the world of college athletics. After all, they are sacrificing their bodies so that the NCAA can make money…and they can earn a college education.

2) What does the union want?

The goal of the National College Players Association (NCPA) — and probably the College Players Association (CAPA) — is not to get the athletes paid outside of their scholarships. According to the NCPA’s website, the union’s goal has multiple goals that include (but are not limited too):

1. Minimize college athletes’ brain trauma risks.

Despite record revenues, the NCAA and conferences have done little to reduce the risks of brain trauma among college athletes.  The NCPA Players Council developed the Concussion Awareness and Reduction Emergency (CARE) Plan, which should be adopted immediately.  The CARE Plan includes, reduced contact during practices, independent concussion experts on sidelines during games, and using a portion of new football playoff revenues for research and support for current and former players.

2. Raise the scholarship amount.

The NCAA admits that a “full scholarship” does not cover the basic necessities for a college athlete, but it refuses to change its rules to allow schools to provide more scholarship money.  The NCPA’s plan is to use a relatively small percentage of new TV revenues to assist universities in providing scholarships that equal each college’s cost of attendance.

3. Prevent players from being stuck paying sports-related medical expenses.

The NCAA does not require schools to cover sports-related injuries – it’s optional.  College athletes injured during sports-related workouts should not have to pay for medical expenses out of their own pockets.

4. Increase graduation rates.

The ultimate goal for a college athlete is not a scholarship, it’s a degree.  Federal graduation rates for Division I football and men’s basketball players hover around 50%.  The NCAA and its member colleges should invest a portion of new TV revenue into continuing education to improve graduation rates.  In addition, the NCAA should work to reduce games that take place during the week.  Although weekday games are in the interest of the TV networks, they hurt college athletes academically.

…etc., check out their website for the rest of the goals.

So basically, the union is trying to guarantee that athletes have the same rights with the NCAA; that student bodies have within their respective institutions.

1) What is the NCAA’s reaction going to be?

The NCAA’s has two options, they can go the heavy-handed route and ban the current football players from participating in the 2014 football season. Or the NCAA can go the easy way and barter with the new players union.

Obviously, the NCAA should negotiate with the union because it might help the NCAA rule book make sense.

 

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