College athletes should be treated like employees

Filed in National by on January 30, 2014

Our current system is an inhumane joke. I think hat might be about to change though.

In a surprise move without precedent in the history of college sports, Northwestern University football players have petitioned to form a labor union.

“Something we talked to the players about – we said, look, we don’t know what the timeline is, there could be a number of appeals, and many of you could be gone,” said Ramogi Huma, a founder of the new College Athletes Players Association. “It’s possible that many of you will never directly benefit. But we said … if you believe it’s the right thing to do, then it’s a chance that no other college athlete’s had, to stand up in this area for not only future players at Northwestern, but future players across the nation.”

“And the response,” said Huma, “was just overwhelming.”

Huma filed the petition Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency responsible for enforcing and interpreting most private sector labor law. Huma also directs the National College Players Association, a non-union group that, as I’ve previously reported, has mounted increasingly aggressive challenges to the NCAA since Huma, an ex-UCLA linebacker, founded the group in 2001.

An NLRB spokesperson told Salon the agency will hold a hearing on the petition Feb. 7. That could be the first step in a multi-year, precedent-setting legal battle, as both Northwestern and the NCAA insist the athletes aren’t employees covered by the New Deal National Labor Relations Act. “I think it is likely that they will prevail,” said former NLRB chairman William Gould. But “the matter could take two to three years at a minimum,” given the “long and convoluted process that is embedded in American labor law, that the university will take full advantage of.”

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Jason330 is a deep cover double agent working for the GOP. Don't tell anybody.

Comments (11)

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  1. pandora says:

    Since many college athletes, especially in football, would never have qualified academically for admission into college, I’m fine with this. In fact, why not just drop the college part of it and let colleges/universities pay the athletes and free up space for kids who are really college bound. If you’re a football player and a good student – great. You get to play football and get a real education. If not, at least you get paid, and the college/university doesn’t get to use you.

    And colleges/universities should have to really pay these kids. Lord knows, they haven’t been educating most of them – many have even created special jock courses. This way, when their dreams of the NFL aren’t fulfilled at least they’ll have been paid. Right now, many don’t get paid while receiving a worthless degree.
    There’s a reason Ivy league schools aren’t known for their football teams.

    Go for it. I wish them luck.

  2. ben says:

    Why are colleges spending so much money on…. and emphasizing the fetishization of sports?
    College athletes are going to get paid at the expensive of students learning REAL skills. At the expense of investment in research. We should not be encouraging the scam-promise of…. If you can throw a ball really far, you and your whole family will be lifted out of poverty and all your problems will be solved.
    Sure. I understand that the athletes are the ones doing the work and the schools are cashing in…. big time….. but I would rather see that model go away because spending millions of dollars on a game isnt something that happens anymore.
    All this does is further metastasize the culture of sport-worship and de-emphasizes training our youth to do something important.

  3. Norinda says:

    Because College Universities make Millions off of College Student Athletes, and they should be compensated accordingly. If not, develop a ‘Minor League’ system separate from the College University to fairly compensate these young women and men for their time. UD football brings in millions and pays just the head football coach over $300,000 a year. College football coaches can get paid as much as NFL coaches. Around 2010, UD cut the men’s track team which only had an operating budget of $60,000 a year. A lost hard fight just to give male students an opportunity to compete w/ other colleges while enhancing their college academic experience and provide a few partial scholarships. UD track & Field Hockey have some of the highest GPAs in the UD Athlectic program! If academics is not the focus then, there should be money available for these student athletes. This Exploitation needs to Stop!

  4. Another Mike says:

    Ben, one of the reasons college spend so much on sports is it is a very effective marketing tool. Florida Gulf Coast University scored a few upsets as a 15 seed last year in the NCAA basketball tournament, and this year freshman applications are up 35.4% over last year. And that’s not because they put up a new science building.

    I’d like to see the NCAA offer recruits a choice, at least at the Division I level. 1) Attend a university as a traditional student-athlete, the usual free ride they get now, or 2) Become an employee of the university, with a salary and benefits, but be responsible, as we all are at some point, for your own housing, meals, etc. And if you want to take classes, it is at your expense.

    That second scenario may well happen at some point in the near future, but it will be limited in scope. Only a small fraction of Division I schools earn money in football, and they are the ones likely to break from the NCAA and form their own league.

    One of the downfalls of pay-for-play is that many high school stars in football and basketball will see a payday in college and opt to be an employee, convinced that a lucrative pro career awaits him. Then, when his eligibility is over and he isn’t drafted, we have another ex-jock without a degree. Not that a degree is a guarantee for success, but college graduates do earn more money than non-grads.

  5. Jason330 says:

    1) Attend a university as a traditional student-athlete, the usual free ride they get now,

    I’m okay with that provided players are protected against being tossed out if they get injured or if a new coach comes in.

    They just need to be more transparent and stop pretending that this is amateur sports.

  6. Jason330 says:

    Norlinda, In many states the head football of basketball coach for the state university is the highest paid state employee.

  7. Another Mike says:

    Jason, I’m with you there. Also, I think scholarships should be guaranteed for 4 years provided the athlete is in good academic standing, attends class, is making progress toward a degree, etc. Not many people know that scholarships are a series of 1-year commitments that can be stripped at the end of any year for any reason.

    As for one of those top earners responding to a question about his compensation, see

  8. Tom McKenney says:

    The NCAA is a sham.

  9. stan merriman says:

    Colleges/Universities should be required to turn their athletics, including football, back into student scholar sports and abandon the current sham of a system. NFL aspiring players should be able to try out for farm teams just like baseball and be paid if they play on those teams.
    I strongly support unions but creating college player unions is as big a joke as the profit-making college football conferences. University’s priorities are way out of whack. Maybe this way we can tamp down some of the vicious head hits creating the brain injury crisis in that sport, at least at the college level for ambitious players.

  10. Norinda says:

    Another Mike,
    If your an employee of a University (UD), your children take classes there for free. So, why not make some provisions for Athletes? If not set-up a Healthcare Trust Research Fund to pay for any future medical expenses sustained by a Concussion or Traumatic Injury suffered or sustained during practice on the Field. Remember too, the NCAA is a ‘Non-Profit’ Organization. Instead of a Big Database Center running natural gas-Set-Up a Neurological Research Center for Athletes who have suffered Concussions and follow them long-term. A win-win, UD gets millions in grants and partnerships with hospitals and small businesses start-up tech companies could be created. Ah Ha…..

  11. ben says:

    I understand why, in the current system, it isnt FAIR to not pay the athletes… considering how much money they are making for the school.
    But they are entertainers. What they do doesn’t contribute to research (other than raising money for the school, which will probably be where the cut is if athletes get paid.

    They are entertainers. Not researchers, not student teachers, etc. So what about college musicians? They do not get paid to perform recitals or concerts. (and i know of at least one university that charges admission to Music Department performances. As hard as it is to make a good living as a professional musician, it is easier than a pro athlete.
    I am all for exploiting these young people LESS, but it would be better to do it in way that doesn’t keep the football-fetish culture going.