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DeMaurice Smith applauds Northwestern players for attempt to unionize

Smith Getty Images

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.

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36 Responses to “DeMaurice Smith applauds Northwestern players for attempt to unionize”
  1. greymares says: Jan 29, 2014 8:02 AM

    might be interesting but along with the good comes the bad I’m guessing the first give back will be no underclassman will be draft eligible

  2. bubba278 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:03 AM

    If the NCAA players are able to unionize could this impact the NFL elegibility rule. With a strong union behind them college players could wage a strong effort to have the 3yrs removed from HS rule challenged. Instead on one player taking a shot it would be continuous litigaiton.

    Or is that thinking too much into it?

    bubba

  3. bobleblah says: Jan 29, 2014 8:05 AM

    What would happen if a top-ranked college player decided to skip the draft and hold an auction for his services instead?

    Unionized college players will end the NFL draft as we know it.

    Which is a very good thing.

  4. 8drinkminimum says: Jan 29, 2014 8:05 AM

    So as an employee instead of a student schools could decide to pull the scholarships and pay them wages instead plus throw in insurance for injuries. What are you going to get $20 an hour during the season vs a $35 to $50 k annual scholarship?

    Will every school pay the same hourly rate?

    Who is going to collect the dues?

    What happens if a student decides to transfer?

    Can you lose your “job” if you skip classes?

    What if the school is in a right to work state?

    Does the 5th string guard make as much as the sure fire, first round pick?

    If this goes anywhere it will take several years at a minimum just to get through te courts.

    Oh and what about Title 9? All teams would now have to unionize. My god what happens to the woman’s fencing team?

    This is all just a pipedream.

  5. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Jan 29, 2014 8:09 AM

    Hope it’s a shove the NCAA face in the dirt kinda win….

  6. mongo13 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:11 AM

    In order to be an employee, you must earn wages. If you earn wages, you must pay taxes. If the scholarship, food, medical etc. at NW is worth $50k per year then then they are going to owe 15% in federal income tax, plus state, local tax, plus FICA, etc. You are looking at easily owing $10k per year in taxes.

    If its a union, they are going to push for all players to make the same amount. Will paying the stud QB and low end OG who only gets in if its a blow out the same $ really make sense, or even make everyone happy. If that low end OG gets the $50k above, but has to pay taxes on it, he’ll be worse off than if he had paid the $50k needed for tuition, food, etc….

    Also, where will this money come from, the vast majority of colleges lose money overall on their athletics, are you going to cut all the sports that are drains on the athletic dept.?

  7. reed20fence says: Jan 29, 2014 8:12 AM

    Watershed moment in sports history.

    The NCAA is one of the evilest, most vile, vindictive, and greedy organizations on Earth.

  8. lionsmark09 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:14 AM

    It is simple. Pay them like it is a work study. The NCAA can set an across the board salary for every student that way it is fair for recruiting.

  9. rodge1 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:16 AM

    Don’t they get tens of thousands (or more) in free education?

  10. filthymcnasty1 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:19 AM

    This is a great idea. In fact I think we should unionize the commenters here.

  11. dynastyposeiden says: Jan 29, 2014 8:35 AM

    after the way the owners took the NFLPA behind the woodshed the college kids may want someone else to do their bidding.

  12. cappa662 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:40 AM

    Just a matter of time before the NCAA goes down… their business model is not sustainable.

  13. garyman1 says: Jan 29, 2014 8:45 AM

    SHOCKING !!! The head of union supports college football players forming a union.

  14. packerbackernj says: Jan 29, 2014 8:51 AM

    Good for them.

  15. dryzzt23 says: Jan 29, 2014 9:02 AM

    Of course De Smith is all for it. He is a union boss and gets rich off of union dues. That is all unions do is make union bosses rich.
    All this would do is to protect players from being demoted, disciplined, or cut. That is a terrible precedent b/c young men need to learn that there are consequences to their actions, not that if they screw up there will always be some entity, union of govt, to get them out of the very trouble that they caused.

  16. dmretrogames says: Jan 29, 2014 9:20 AM

    Great. Won’t be long before AD’s and coaches are found at the bottom of the Chicago river…

  17. contract says: Jan 29, 2014 9:39 AM

    Just revoke their scholarships and let them set up their own league … and see if anyone gives a damn when they play.

  18. nfl4days says: Jan 29, 2014 9:52 AM

    Not everyone on the team gets a fullride. A lot of these guys are playing ball AND still paying for college. Let EA pay them to use their likeness in NCAA games or anyone else. I’m not sure forming a union is the best course of action.

  19. shrimpdd says: Jan 29, 2014 10:03 AM

    Always fun to watch a bunch of guys at an elite, private university who are getting $200,000 worth of tuition, medical care, tutors and more perks, just for playing a game, claim they’re getting abused.

  20. bigjdve says: Jan 29, 2014 10:10 AM

    Isn’t DeMo Smith the same guy that while protecting his own job signed off on collusion against the very people he represents?

    Yeah I am sure he has the best interests of the students at heart.

  21. ruvelligwebuike says: Jan 29, 2014 10:13 AM

    Straight from their website, tuition alone at Northwestern is $15,040 per quarter…or $45,120 per year if you didn’t take summer classes. Housing is $9,000 +/- with meal plan at a minimum.

    $45, 120 for tuition and $9,000 for rent per year. Plus an NCAA stipend for living expenses.

    This is not good enough for Kain Colter and DeMaurice Smith agrees.

    Let that soak in…

  22. maltz88 says: Jan 29, 2014 10:19 AM

    A union head is applauding a groups move to unionize?? Weird.

  23. 2manyconcussions says: Jan 29, 2014 10:30 AM

    The thing about Division I football, is that it pays for most of the rest of the non-revenue sports at the university. While you can argue that the college football players are getting a free education, the university is making many times that in revenue. In addition, there are players who are on the bubble who lose their scholarships after injuries, and whose injuries are not covered by the university health insurance. This is abusive. I think there are good reasons to push for a union, although I’m not sure I would hitch my wagon to the NFLPA.

  24. scchamil says: Jan 29, 2014 10:47 AM

    If NCAA is smart, they would immediately set up a student athlete advisory board with each conference getting an athlete representative elected by his peers that can weigh in on rules, safety, insurance and eligibility issues. I think the players have a strong case here and they should be offering concessions in the name of self-preservation.

    Then the NCAA should set up an ebay type site that allows students to sell certain approved merchandise/memorabilia (cleats, signed pics, jerseys, bowl swag, etc.) – with a small percentage of sales going to school for licensing purposes and small percentage going to NCAA for running the site and monitoring. That is the only way pay these athletes without running into Title IX issues. This way, it is purely market demand – doesn’t matter if your a third string safety at Alabama, a wrestler at Iowa or a woman soccer player at North Carolina… market decides what you make (and it usually coincides with those athletes bringing in the most $ for their schools).

  25. makimaguro says: Jan 29, 2014 10:55 AM

    Smith is a joke – costed his ‘clients’ a ton of money. NFL owners are probably still laughing all of the way to the bank.

  26. jbsptfn says: Jan 29, 2014 10:56 AM

    I wonder if this will be the first step towards the non-existence of major college football and basketball, the advent of minor leagues in the NFL, and a bigger minor league in the NBA (because they do have the D-League).

    That way, players can be drafted into the NFL and NBA at 18, but most of them can start in the minors because most people aren’t ready to be in either league at 18, especially in the NFL.

  27. sb139422 says: Jan 29, 2014 11:01 AM

    Sure. Join the club of the entitled, deserving, self righteous unions that are tearing this place apart.

  28. GenXJay says: Jan 29, 2014 11:01 AM

    I thought everyone incurred debt when attending college.
    And that playing sports, at any age, is a risk assumed by the individual.
    This is slowly evolving into a socialistic ideal.

  29. ratsfoiledagain says: Jan 29, 2014 11:05 AM

    “The question turns on whether college football players are employees of the schools for which they play.”

    Well then, the kids can sign up for tuition reimbursement like my company has. No more scholarships, since they might become employee’s.

    A’s reimbursed at 100%, B’s @ 80% and C’s at 70%.

    They will have to purchase all books, pay for tutors and lab fees. These can be reimbursed after the quarter/semester, via the scale noted above.

    No more scholarships. Sign up for student loans.

    If they feel they are employee’s treat them the same. Minimum wage, no health care, 20 hrs a week.

    What about kids that do not wish to be in the union? They cannot keep other kids from playing sports, or go to the school.

  30. melikefootball says: Jan 29, 2014 11:22 AM

    Stop all scholarships, let these players pay their own way. If they want to play sports there it is . Everyone feels they deserve something and especially in the sports world.

  31. rcali says: Jan 29, 2014 11:31 AM

    The most important question for DeSmith is what his kickback is. Bye bye scholarship sports, hello club sports. That’s how most schools will be handling all non-revenue generating sports……which is most of them.

  32. rg3sus says: Jan 29, 2014 12:18 PM

    I’m pretty sure they are just student athletes. If they are employees then where do we draw the line? Are high school football players employees? What about pop Warner? Yes the NCAA and big football factories make a ton of money. But you also could choose to go play at Duke and receive a 40k+ per year education for free. You can leave early for the NFL. They make it seem as if college athletes get a horrible deal.

  33. gt40bear says: Jan 29, 2014 12:19 PM

    Smith is for players unionizing, WOW that’s a news flash!

  34. rajbais says: Jan 29, 2014 1:05 PM

    Anyone who’s pro-scholarship only is a bigger brat than paid NCAA players will be.

    Pro-scholarship only people are privileged people who never came from the inner cities or American poorness while able to buy or have Mommy and Daddy but them iPhones and iPads.

    Plus, why listen to privileged people when they make up our country’s decline in intellect and educational attainment and achievement? Why listen to them when they’ve been on silver spoons and never lived near poverty and make up America’s obesity problem that never seems to go away?

    Plus, what makes more sense, accepting a 4.0 and high test score applicant who’s a great athlete or a 2.5 and crappy test score applicant who’s a great athlete?

    Privileged people have better educations and have more advanced courses to help themselves than inner city kids. Even if the inner city kid is a high test scoring, 4.5 GPA achieving applicant he or she will be less advanced than the person with the same credentials after graduating a privileged public school.

    Also, if inner city schools are great in education why don’t privileged people put their kids in inner city schooling?

  35. ugadogs21 says: Jan 29, 2014 1:26 PM

    As a former athlete I can’t stand the NCAA but I don’t think this is answer. What this means the end of the student-athlete designation and the scope is bound to expand to any activity in which a student represents the school or partipates in an activity in which the school reaps a financial benefit. Someone is going to have figure out the true value of a scholarship at every school where this applies and believe me, no school wants this because they will have to open their books and that could lead to huge tax consequences..The NCAA is going to have relax their rules and allow these athletes a stipend or have them designated as independent contractors.

    This going to be interesting.

  36. packinggreens says: Jan 29, 2014 2:48 PM

    I see their argument, but they Go to college for free, graduate with no debt, and get a degree from a university. That’s not a bad trade off in my eyes (I’m a college athlete)

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