Archive for April, 2014

Footballers of the world unite!

Maybe it’s because I’m a Wildcat alum, maybe it’s because I’ve watched He Got Game one too many times, or maybe it’s because I’m a pinko-commie bastard (probably that last one), but I feel very proud about what’s been happening with Northwestern’s football team.
In a landmark decision this March, the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board granted Northwestern players employees status— meaning they can unionize and bargain for benefits.
No pun intended, but this is game changing.
Student athletes, especially at the Big Ten schools, reaps in millions of dollars for their institutions.  From game-day tickets to advertising dollars to the rush of applicants that athletics elicit (who, in turn, fork over thousands per year in tuition cost), college sports are a cash cow.
And what do student athletes get?  A scholarship is nice, but it’s not advanced medical care, concussion testing, basic workplace protections, or wages for hours upon hours of physically demanding labor.  It doesn’t prevent your institution from owning you and exploiting you.  And what does that scholarship mean exactly when you don’t have time to attend class because you’re busting your butt on the field?
The NCAA, of course, argues that players are students, not professional athletes or employees.  But that excuse is a little hard to stomach when you look at the serious amount of cash they are earning off college performances.  In 2010, for example, the NCAA signed a $14 billion deal with CBS and Turner Sports for the broadcast rights to the men’s basketball tournament.  And that’s just one game.
It’s unlikely this decision will go forward with no opposition.  The national NLRB in Washington will review the decision next week, and leaders of the Northwestern’s group are visiting D.C. in anticipation of potential legislative battles down the road.  But hopefully this win will begin to upset the exploitative way the NCAA conducts its business.

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