De Smith applauds Northwestern players for bucking the “shut up and play” message

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Profound changes to the NFL’s free farm system could eventually bring profound changes to the NFL.  The executive director of the NFL Players Association doesn’t seem to care about that.

DeMaurice Smith applauds the efforts of football players at Northwestern to unionize.  In a column written for the Huffington Post, Smith (accurately) points out that men like former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter have opted to push back against the NCAA’s “shut up and play” message.

“The NCAA sells and wants college athletes to be a team everywhere except in a room where they can talk about the issues they care about,” Smith writes.  “The truth is that they do not want a team that demands a response from a system that makes millions from their play.”

The system inevitably will change.  For now, the “shut up and play” crowd will attempt to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, and then to finagle the best possible financial deal once change arrives.

Either way, after decades of “shut up and play,” the overwhelming message from college athletes to the universities, conferences, and NCAA should be, “Shut up and pay.”

Eventually, they will.  The only question is when and how much.

34 responses to “De Smith applauds Northwestern players for bucking the “shut up and play” message

  1. Unions are going to kill the golden goose that gives these players their education.

    Once the unions are finished, college sports will no longer be what it is and education will no longer be given. Players will go from high school to a farm team then maybe to a pro team.

    A few years later, they’re out of sports and on the streets with no education.

    Come to think of it, maybe things won’t be all that different from now after all. The players, for the most part are highly uneducated as it is.

  2. They have an opened a giant sized Pandora’s box. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out and how many people, teams, and colleges will get crushed by the law of unintended consequences.

  3. Man I wish I could get paid to play a sport at a school that gave me a few ride whole charging students upwards of 50k per semester to go to the same school. I mean after 3 years thats 300k and a free college education. I hope if the student athletes do this the schools buckle down on their cheating. Just listen to a few of the nfl players talk and you know they did no work in college. I get its a huge business but damn dont act like these kids are getting nothing. Btw they play up to college for free as well and college is still a school. Maybe we should start paying high school athletes to? I mean everyone knew of tebow before college so maybe local high schools should be able to pay familys to send there kids to said high schools. Where will it end

  4. I am with de smith all the way!

    Also, have some compassion for the moms too. They have to work too hard for the players to be even more unprotected.

    My message to the NCAA buck the disingenuousness and pure greed you keep getting addicted to.

  5. If it weren’t for unions, players would be making about the same as the cheerleaders.
    Owners would prefer players be paid from endorsement deals like back in the day.

    I can’t wait for a major college team to strike at the beginning of a season, sparking imitations across the country.

  6. My attitude is don’t play.

    Someone else will, and college athletics support has never been about the players in the way pro sports is. So if you dont like it, try to start a minor league system. The schools will be just fine.

  7. Getting tired of the increased op-ed stuff. We don’t know if the NCAA will eventually pay. They surely would think otherwise. Stop with the foregone conclusions and heavy-handed editorializing.

  8. As long as the NFL can still work out a way of retaining parity then this is not a problem and obviously great for the college players.

    Sadly, I think the NFL will be pushed into a corner and end up more like European soccer where you have extreme difference between the clubs who are ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, players have all the power and contracts might as well be week-to-week for all they are honored.

    Of course De Smith would applaud that outcome.

  9. This has gotten way out of hand. Neither Colleges nor the NCAA should be forced to pay for college athletes. Most, if not all players making the NCAA the big bucks are on scholarship anyway. Do you think Kentucky players aren’t on scholarship? You want to pay Hamilton scholarship and $ on the side? Scholarships come in the form of living expenses, food cost etc. Do y’all realize how much $ that saves a family from paying? Would athletes trade their scholarship for pay from the NCAA? No way….If Northwestern players didn like the conditions, it’s their right to transfer to a school with better conditions.

    I played baseball for a D1 school where the coach was pocketing the booster $. We were eating pizza on the bus after playing rice on a 300 mile road trip. Our parents wrote the school and eventually got the coach fired. I transferred to another school the following year and played my senior season for a NCAA hof head coach and championship program. Wanting to unionize for lack of healthcare and because of playing conditions is a joke

  10. It’s easy to just say well let’s form a union. Well I thought that Cowherd brought up a great point on his show the other day. Is the backup right guard on say Ole Miss worth the same as a starting running back on Alabama? Obviously not. There is no way they’re going to be able to devise a system where everyone is worth the same because they’re not. And the fact that womens athletes are going to have to get paid as well, not just football and basketball for men. Only thing that should be changed is these athletes should be able to market themselves such as signing autographs or getting something for their jersey sales.

  11. Not millions, HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS. The NCAA is about to become a billion dollar non profit entity.

    Yeah. Think about that for a minute. It isn’t about education or a “free ride”, it’s about greed. They can’t even make money off of their own name, forget about getting paid by the NCAA, they can’t make their own money off of their name involving the sport.


  12. In typical gravy trainer form Northwestern coach and the NCAA are defending the status quo. Keep everything the same. Its not in the players best interest blah blah blah. Which means it is in the players best interest or else they wouldnt be coming out so hard against the players unionizing.

  13. Do you know what should be the biggest thing we’re talking about with this? The fact that the majority of the 11 issues the kids brought up as needing to change, the majority of them were either about better medical care for guys injured on the field and doing more to support the kids academics. Colter himself said before the NLRB he thought athletic scholarships should be counted as a fair compensation by itself. These guys should be applauded even by the don’t pay them crowd and the irrational union bashers. Apart from another site, nobody is talking about it.

  14. Programs like ROTC offer a stipend to students involved in their program. I don’t see how a $500 monthly stipend for NCAA athletes across the board (football, basketball, baseball, track and field, etc) is impossible. It’s enough money to keep kids from skipping meals or not buying new clothes, but not enough to make other students feel like theyre treated unfairly.

  15. Tuition at Northwestern is 45,120 dollars per year. Over 4 years that’s approx 180 grand. Should some sort of living stipend be awarded? Sure that’s not unreasonable but if you asked any graduate with 200k in student loan debt to play sports for 4 years in return for complete debt forgiveness I don’t imagine many would say no.

  16. I hear a lot of coaches, including Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald saying this is an awful decision. Yet, not a single coach has provided a true reason.

    I was a manager for a DI men’s basketball program from 2008-2011 and I can assure you the lifestyle isn’t what the media or public believes it is. The student-athletes rarely had time to be a college student, early morning individual workouts, classes from 8-2:30 then practice then dinner, study hall and bed.

    The basketball program was the sole reason we upgraded to a $55 million gym and added a new dorm on campus.

    It’s a proven fact that there’s no such thing as a “free-ride” for athletes. Most leave college with debt upwards to $10K. I know there are students that leave with nearly 10x that but these kids are putting so much time and energy and for what? So the school can flourish and they go into the workforce with some joke-of-a-degree?

    It’s a flawed system that needs major tweaking.

  17. Ok then let do it that way
    1) All athletes, of any sports, are no longer eligible for scholarships.
    2) you pay your tuitions on time because the unions will put a fist if that future paycheck do not show up on time
    3) etc.
    4) etc.

    FYI: what did you expect D Smith to say, they are all future union members as far he can see.

  18. The 10-year-olds in the local little league met last night and voted to unionize. They demand the following:

    1.) Free healthcare for life
    2.) Compensation
    3.) Big League Chew at the concessions stand

  19. Great, now that the union thing is settled in DeMo’s mind, hows that process coming along on the HGH testing…???

  20. Ok, fine let them unionize, happy for them! Now they are employees and NOT students. Pay them minimum wage and cut out scholarships except for those who, you know, actually deserve them academically! Additionally, they will now be subject to all employee rules. Get arrested, get fired! Show disrespect to your boss, get fired! Enjoy your new found freedom players! Oh and one more thing, they have to use their own money to pay for classes and if they don’t attend them, they are fired!

  21. I can solve this problem for the NCAA right now.

    ALL players who want to unionize can, and will receive $500 per month.
    Just sign this paper here stating that you will honor your scholarship and will remain at this University until you graduate.

    No leaving school after 1-3 years to play professionally. You MUST graduate, with a degree.

  22. I agree with the guy who mentioned the ROTC comparison. With coaches making millions of dollars in these programs there’s no reason the kids can’t get a small stipend. A little bit goes a long way in college. Many of these guys don’t have time for a job because between practice, meetings, workouts, schoolwork and class there isn’t time left in a day. So yeah, their food housing and tuition is paid for but during your 4 years in college you’re probably going to want some spending cash so you can go to a movie, buy clothes, drive your car, etc. This is what leads players to selling memorabilia (Ohio) and then getting punished for it. Yes, I understand that all athletes would have to be paid then, but with the programs making as much as they are I don’t see how you can tell them its out of the question. Also, I think its complete BS that if you get hurt working your butt off for a program that they can pull your scholarship and leave you high and dry AND injured. I hear some states are enacting laws that they won’t be able to pull scholarships anymore which is good, but that should be mandatory across the board.

  23. It’s time for the NFL to spend some of that profit on developing a minor league system independent of the NCAA. It’s worked for MLB and NHL for years. It’s time the NFL stopped being allowed to have its cake and eat it too on every level. Give college football back to the student-athletes that actually want an education and get the the dummies that can barely read at a 4th grade level out of college and let them sink or swim in life on their athletic talent (99% will fail). Same with the ones that are too short-sighted to appreciate the longterm earning power of a degree vs being simply a HS grad. Let them all sink or swim on their athletic talent. And when 90+ % of them either wash out or don’t make it into the NFL are all flipping burgers and applying for welfare……..ask them how much that free college education is worth to them now. And then laugh and walk away.

  24. I understand why everybody thinks that forming a Union is about getting paid, but that is not the case. A Union is about protecting workers rights. In college football, for example, a scholarship is only a one year contract. If a player gets hurt and can’t play anymore, he loses his scholarship. The school does not have to renew. Does that seem right (for all you people saying that a free education is enough). Players don’t have any say on how much they can or can’t practice. They have no say on money they can or can’t take. They can’t even take a free sandwich from somebody. Players get penalized when they want to transfer, while a coach can go from one school to another and collect millions in the process. Does that seem fair to a player who is partly responsible for the NCAA and the school making hundreds of millions and a coach making no less than six figures? The reason the players are trying to unionize is that they want the RIGHT to sit down at the table with the NCAA and the school and have a say in the rules imposed on them. Thats what Unions do. Thats what they are for. How could you possibly be against that?

  25. The NLRB ruled that these players are employees first, students second.


    One of my kids had a work study job at college. He paid taxes on that money.

    Another kid had a stipend at college. She was taxed on that money.

    If the Northwestern players are employees first, they should be taxed on everything they get from tuition to room and board. At $45,000 per year for tuition and a couple thousand more for room and board, I look forward to the IRS nailing them for $200,000 plus in unreported earnings.

    Careful what you wish for, boys.

  26. I believe that when a student signs a LOI and the scholarship is awarded to them, then that scholarship should be guaranteed for, at minimum, 4 years. If they get injured on the court or field and can no longer play, they should be able to finish out their degree without penalty should they choose to do so. I also feel like they should have access to healthcare for sports related injuries. HOWEVER, I do NOT feel like they should be considered “employees” of the school. They are students and they do know what they are getting into when they sign that letter and attend the university to play a sport. That it is not to be paid for their efforts on the field, they are paid with a free education that, more times that not, was not earned academically. It just frustrates me to see all these student athletes crying foul, saying they are going to bed hungry, yet Shabazz Napier has thousands of dollars worth of tattoos all over his upper body. How may McDoubles could he have gotten over the years instead of paying for those tattoos so he could look cool while playing the sport? I feel no sympathy for him, he got a free education, and spent whatever spending money he had to get tatted up. If they provide a stipend, it should be like an EBT card in the sense that it can only be spent of food and basic living expenses like clothing. No spending that money on tattoos or whatever else these college kids want to waste their money on…by the way, I have over $20K in student loan debt that I’ve been paying for over 6 years and I went to bed without supper on several occasions but I didn’t cry foul and demand that the school treat me as an employee…and I actually went to class and graduated…

  27. Everybody knows that under Federal Labor Laws, the players qualify as “EMPLOYERS”.

    All the people saying, make them pay their own way, should know that all taking away a scholarship would do, is guarantee that the “newly classified players”, would just go to the highest bidder. (probably your chief competition) The schools will spend for the best players because that translates into wins and wins= $$$$$.

    It’s inevitable. Profit sharing is on the way. Isn’t that what capitalism is about?

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