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Unionize NCAA Athletes


Josh Eidelson adds an important angle to the recent coverage of the exploitation of NCAA athletes by writers such as Taylor Branch and Joe Nocera. Eidelson explores the nascent attempts to unionize athletes at D-I schools. Athletes have talked about this since the 90s, even threatening to walk out on the 1995 NCAA Tournament. That went nowhere, but with advice from the United Steelworkers, athletes are still talking about it.

“I don’t think that student-athletes should be able to be exploited in the way that they are,” says Anthony Mosely, who just finished his last season as a cornerback at the University of Kentucky and hopes to be drafted into the NFL in May. Mosely describes athletes anxiously waiting for federal financial aid checks to help close the gap between their stipends and their expenses. “You become really dependent on, ‘Is it going to come on this Tuesday or this Tuesday?’” says Mosely, because that federal assistance could determine “whether you can get insurance” or “whether you can pay rent.” While Mosely stressed over his expenses, his university sold apparel with his number. “It might not be my name on the back of the jersey, but if it’s a Number 14 Kentucky jersey, they obviously are wearing that jersey for me … ” says Mosely. “That is a little bit of exploitation. You can buy a jersey with my number on it … the school can potentially profit off of it, and the student athlete doesn’t.”

How widespread this sentiment is, I don’t know. But the clear examples of the professional sports unions probably significantly increase the chances that college athletes would be interested in something like this. It seems that there are clear legal paths for unions of college athletes in at least 14 states.

And as an Oregon fan, I love the idea of recruiting athletes out of Texas using the tool of Oregon having a strong athlete union and Texas not. I’m sure that’s not going to happen, but a unionist Duck fan can dream.

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