Formation of Collegiate Athletic Union May Take Focus Away from Academic Education

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago ruled that the Northewestern University football players have the right to unionize on Wednesday March 26th.

This movement was started back in January when the former quarterback, Kain Colter, announced that he and several other Northwestern football players would like to join the Labor Union. The NLRB approved the players request and ruled that full scholarship athletes at Northwestern are employees of the school and have the right to form a union, according to CBS Chicago.

However, the players are not necessarily looking for compensation but rather have a say in health issues and benefits for college athletes.

The NLRB’s ruling has been subject to controversial debate around the country and amongst college athletes. Sophomore football player at Monmouth University, Keone Osby, agrees with the movement saying, “I think it’s good that they’re pushing to unionize because it will allow athletes to voice their opinions and be heard.”

Tyler Saito, a sophomore baseball player for Monmouth said, “Scholarships are enough.” He continued to say that the players union will, “take away from the game.”

Monmouth University’s President, Dr. Paul Brown shared his opinion in an op-ed piece that he wrote on March 28 on nj.com called “Colleges shouldn’t surrender the flag of amateur athletics.” In his piece, Brown discussed the competing ideologies between College and University athletic programs.

Brown described the difference as professionally based programs and amateur based programs. He said, “From my perspective, as president of Monmouth University, the gulf between the two competing models continues to widen.”

University Athletic Director, Dr. Marilyn McNeil, expressed a similar point when she offered to give her personal opinion, which was not an official statement from Monmouth University or the Athletic Department. She said, “It widens the gap between the haves and have not’s.”

In Brown’s article, he used a quote from former NBA coach, Larry Brown, in which he said that college basketball programs serve as “the greatest minor-league system in the world.”

Brown said, “For those of us engaged in the mission of higher education, there is nothing more serious than providing a meaningful education to our students.” McNeil also pointed out that athletes “have lost sight of why they’re here, which is to get an education.” She also said that this is a case of a small group of athletes wanting more and that being a college athlete is a “privilege not a right.”

According to CBS Chicago, Ramogi Huma, the founder and President of the National College Players Association said, “The goal is to make athletes have a seat at the table. Health and safety of athletes is the concern, especially to reduce the risk of brain trauma.”

McNeil said that NCAA athletes do receive medical catastrophic insurance. However, concussions in football and other sports have been a major issue at all levels. However, the NLRB ruled the athletes’ employees whether or not they receive compensation in addition to their scholarships.

Noah Lipman, a history professor has prior experience dealing with labor unions because he used to work for a law firm that represented members of the teachers union in New York City.

Lipman said, “If student athletes were allowed to unionize that would not, by itself, make them employees.  Whether they were employees or not would depend on the issue of compensation being provided and what the agreement was between the players and the university.”

If the players are indeed ruled as employees, McNeil said that she wonders how responsible the players’ former institutions would be for them. McNiel used NFL wide receiver Miles Austin as an example. Miles Austin, one of Monmouth’s famous alumni, creates a lot of the revenue that the University’s athletic department receives.

McNeil asked, “If Miles got injured in the NFL, as an employee of Monmouth University, would we still be responsible for giving him benefits?” She also questioned if Miles Austin would also need to receive compensation for the revenue that he may have helped the school receive.

Another question that McNeil raised about the movement is how it would comply with all NCAA programs. Labor Unions do not have jurisdiction over public schools. One of the controversies is that this union would mostly affect private institutions.

McNeil continued, “this may give private schools an unfair advantage. Institutions could be taxed as a whole.”

This is because scholarships cannot be taxed by the federal government but if a union was created, this could possibly happen.

Lipman said, “Any compensation in the form of money is income for purposes of the IRS unless it is considered a reimbursed expense which would not be likely if the compensation was in addition to free tuition and room/board.”

Lipman continued, “Each state has their own labor laws.  Those laws, among other things, limit hours worked without providing overtime.  They also require a minimum wage which might be an issue depending on the payments made.”

PHOTO TAKEN from www.foxnews.com