For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” has learned.
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB — the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.
“This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table,” said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, who created the NCPA as an advocacy group in 2001. “Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections.”
Huma told “Outside The Lines” that the move to unionize players at Northwestern started with quarterback Kain Colter, who reached out to him last spring and asked for help in giving athletes representation in their effort to improve the conditions under which they play NCAA sports. Colter became a leading voice in regular NCPA-organized conference calls among players from around the country.
Now this is a story worth following. Given the difficulty graduate student unions have had in getting universities to admit they are employees, I think this is going to be an even harder struggle for athletes since they aren’t even paid, but I wish them the best of luck.