The battle lines have been drawn between a group of college football players at Northwestern and the NCAA. The players believe they are “employees” within the letter of federal labor law. The NCAA believes they aren’t.
The National Labor Relations Board will begin the process of sorting it out on February 7.
Lost in the haze of Super Bowl week, the winds of change could soon reach hurricane levels, if the players have success. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is rooting for them.
Appearing on CBS This Morning, Smith applauded the efforts of players to take collective action, calling it the “best way for college players to protect their rights.” He also praised Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter’s courage for being the face of the collective effort.
“Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship,” Colter said Tuesday at a press conference. “No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”
The question turns on whether college football players are employees of the schools for which they play.
“I think they make a great case,” Smith said, pointing out that players are exposed to injuries not covered by insurance and that many live below the poverty line, notwithstanding the millions generated in revenue by the college football programs.
We think they make a great case, too. And it’s a story we plan to cover — because it could have a major impact on the NFL’s primary feeder system, and because it is a historic step in the evolution of collegiate sports, regardless of outcome.