Football players at Northwestern University made history last month when they petitioned to be represented by a labor union. Unionization is the first step to becoming recognized as employees, and thus, a step toward being paid.
Football at most schools brings in the highest revenue, and many think that the players deserve a cut of the profit.
Furthermore, athletes put their bodies on the line everyday for the entertainment of fans and to bolster the revenue of the school for which they play. It is becoming more rare to find an athlete (especially at the Division-I level) that plays for the love of the game, an old theme of college athletics.
Those who stand in opposition to players getting paid argue that since athletes are given scholarships and other privileges — such as tutors, more lenient academic policies and the various other perks of being a Division-I athlete — they are adequately compensated for their work on the field.
But these can all be lost if a player is injured or needs to leave the team for any reason. Being represented by a labor union ensures that those benefits cannot be taken away due to injury, just like employees of a company cannot be dismissed if their injuries are work-related.
Northwestern football players and all athletes deserve to be assured that their scholarships will not be lost if injured playing the sport. Some athletes come to college with no other means of paying for tuition and, if they are injured, might have to drop out.
Considering how much money (ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars) athletics bring to a college, the athletes who earn that money and continue winning traditions should be respected, even paid.
Coaches and athletes should enter into a binding contract on which all parties involved can agree; this contract needs to be much more extensive and specific than those currently in place. Furthermore, that contract should be protected by a union like the one for which Northwestern athletes have begun to fight.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has long preyed upon athletes, relying on them for stability and income but not reciprocating to the same extent. The policies that the NCAA currently has in place does not even come close to satisfying the needs of athletes. Northwestern athletes, unsurprisingly, are brilliant in their decision to take a step toward fair treatment. It is not Northwestern or any other college that is promoting these atrocious regulations. Instead, it is the governing, greedy body known as the NCAA that has decided not to take an interest in the health, safety or protection of those who legitimize the organization: the individual athletes.
Even if the team does not become unionized, it has made a statement. The athletes are no longer tolerating the NCAA’s tyranny. It is time for a coup d’etat.
Juliet Suess is a senior ECLS major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WklyJSuess.