Football players at Northwestern University have officially filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking to be treated as a labor union. The College Athletes Players Association, as they propose to call it, would have a seat at the table when the NCAA decides on issues that impact student athletes; like the players associations in professional athletics, they would have the right to collectively bargain with the NCAA.
Principally, the student athletes say their concerns focus primarily on issues of health and safety. Among other things, they’d like scholarships to be guaranteed, even if the player can no longer play due to injury or other medical issues. In addition, the group would pursue the creation of a trust fund players could tap into after their NCAA eligibility is complete in order to complete their degree or be rewarded for degree completion.
A union would give student athletes leverage they lack now, from the simple strength of acting as a group to the protection of labor laws. It’s easy to see why student athletes might want to form a union, but there’s no doubt they’ll face an uphill battle.
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