Northwestern athletes challenge NCAA system in hopes of unionizing

Northwestern University football players recently made national headlines by attempting to unionize. While doing so they appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to gain more benefits, including medical care, updated rules for transferring, keeping scholarships after injury and better support for players after graduation.
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The idea of college athletes receiving benefits for playing sports is not new, yet the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has consistently taken the stance that college is for education, and that participating in athletics is only a bonus.
Northwestern players hope that creating a union will provide college athletes with benefits that they currently lack, including payment aside from grants and scholarships, greater representation, and guaranteed medical care.
“One of the things that I love about college sports is that the players play simply out of the love of the game,” said sophomore Giancarlo Lorusso.
This hasn’t stopped Kain Colter, the Northwestern quarterback, from seeking the ability to unionize. Colter has been working with Ramogi Huma,  the head of the College Athletes  Players Association (CAPA), which works to represent college athletes across the country.
“Every major sports league has unions. The players unions collectively bargain with the owners to create a fair deal for both sides,” said junior Jacob Salem. “Why should collegiate sports be different?”
Currently, the NLRB requires 30 percent of the members in a group in order to consider a petition.
Huma told ESPN that “an overwhelming majority” signed on to join the potential union. The university disagrees with Colter and Huma’s case.
“Northwestern believes that our student-athletes are not employees and collective bargaining is therefore not the appropriate method to address these concerns,” said Northwestern Vice President of Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips.
Colter and Huma’s case is pending review by the NLRB. After that, the appeals process begins, which may lead all the way to the Supreme Court.
If players are given the right to unionize, players like Colter will likely have graduated by the time the new rules  are implemented.
However,  Colter and Huma’s efforts could change the entire dynamic of athletic programs.