This week, in a first for college sports, football players at Northwestern University have petitioned to join a union, adding fuel to the debate over college athletes' financial rights and position.
The players are demanding financial coverage of sports-related medical expenses, having concussion experts at the sidelines of games, and setting up an educational trust fund to allow "due process" before a coach can strip a player of his scholarship, reports the Chicago Tribune. They also want to be compensated for commercial sponsorships and are asking for "cost of attendance" stipends.
Players say this not about money, but rather a seat at the table, and they are not pushing for salaries.
The biggest issue here is whether or not the players are considered employees. Their participation in college sports is considered voluntary. And the law holds that students pursuing a degree cannot organize.
According to CNN, the National College Players Association wants to be the first union to represent college athletes, and association president Ramogi Huma argues that athletes produce billions of dollars for the schools but the system leaves players unable to cover basic expenses of going to school. Meanwhile, the coaches make millions.
More broadly, a debate has been underway about whether college football players should be paid. It's gained momentum in recent months with players telling the public about it, playing with "APU" written on tape around their wrists. The "All Players United" (or APU) movement is promoted by the NCPA to help players get "a bigger piece of college sports" growing financial pie.
In the accompanying video, I talk with Yahoo Sports staff writer Eric Adelson about the players' chances of succeeding in unionizing, if this trend could grow, and the debate over paying for college football players to play. Full disclosure: This writer/interview is a Northwestern University alumnus!
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