Mr. Colter Goes to Washington: Northwestern Football Union Leader to Meet with Lawmakers
Kain Colter, the Northwestern University quarterback who organized his teammates into a union, meets with senators and representatives in Washington, DC on Wednesday and Thursday. Ramogi Huma, the president of the College Athletes Players Association, joins Colter in meeting with the politicians.
A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled last week that scholarship athletes should be considered “employees” with rights to unionize under federal law. The decision paves the way for the Northwestern University football team, and other Division 1 teams, to establish a labor union. The NLRB regional director ordered a union election, declaring, "Eligible to vote are all football players receiving football grant-in-aid scholarship and not having exhausted their playing eligibility." Colter, a graduating senior, has exhausted his eligibility.
The full NLRB considers in April the decision of their Chicago representative recognizing the collegiate union. The NRLB can then either overturn or affirm that decision. Despite concerns over how unionizing unpaid players might make athletic programs cost prohibitive at many schools, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has endorsed the efforts of the Northwestern undergraduates. Not everyone in Washington agrees with student-athletes forming labor unions.
"Imagine a university's basketball players striking before a Sweet 16 game demanding shorter practices, bigger dorm rooms, better food, and no classes before 11 a.m.," Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander reacted. "This is an absurd decision that will destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it."