By Tank Spencer
Typically I'm not a supporter of unions. But when it comes to college athletes unionizing, I'm all for it. The National Labor Relations Board's Chicago district has decided that football players at Northwestern University can form a union. The ruling determines that the student-athletes are essentially employees of the school.
Now unions, as I understand them, are supposed to be formed to protect the rights of workers who are over-worked, underpaid, taken advantage of, or all of the above. These days it seems many unions, especially the bigger/older ones are mainly used to take advantage of employers. They often demand more pay for less work and ridiculous benefits. That is why I'm against unions typically.
College athletes, especially the football and basketball players (revenue sport athletes), definitely fall into the category of workers who are taken advantage of. These young men generate millions of dollars for their schools and while they do get a college scholarship plus room and board, it is not enough by a long shot at many schools. In fact a study by the National College Players Association and Drexel University says in the 2011-2012 academic year even student-athletes on a “full ride” paid on average out-of-pocket expenses of $3,285.
In that same study, it is determined that football players at Northwestern generate more than $27.5 million for the school per year. Based on the revenue share that NFL players get (46.5%), a Northwestern player's fair market value is $150,702. You cannot convince me that giving a young man a “full ride” worth just $63,228 is fair compensation. Especially after we already know that these young men often have other expenses to pay for out-of-pocket.
These student-athletes also are not only responsible for their coursework, but also all of the training it takes to be successful on the field and keep their scholarships. Many of them have to put in 40 or more hours a week just for the training and playbook study. There is barely enough time to study hard academically and there is NO free time to go get a job that might pay for incidentals or the frivolities that go with college life.
Every school is basically voluntarily participating in indentured servitude, much like the early days of baseball where only the owners got rich and the players made peanuts. College athletes in the revenue sports deserve to be paid and hopefully this allowance for Northwestern players to unionize will lead to that. The NCAA and its member schools have generated billions off of the blood, sweat and tears of these young people for far too long, paying far too little benefit in return.