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College athlete unionization process will promise to educate

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

When the ruling came down in late March by the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board that a group of Northwestern football players were employees of the university and have the right to form a union and bargain collectively, there was history made. The lines between what student-athletes were receiving and the revenue that they generate for colleges, universities, and the NCAA have always been blurred for some. There are arguments that college athletes receiving scholarships is beneficial for them considering what they receive from their schools with the experiences that come with being a "student-athlete". Of course, there are strong arguments that college athletes deserve more than they receive given that collegiate sports has become a multi-billion dollar industry that the athletes (in particular men's basketball and college football) carry.

It is clear that the battle between Northwestern University and the Northwestern football players will have ramifications well beyond that of Northwestern. The legal battle will lead into court cases against the NCAA, which could changes college sports forever. It is important to realize that even within the decision for Northwestern football players to unionize that all Northwestern players aren't for unionization. In fact, former quarterback Kain Colter has been one of the public leaders of the unionization process while his former teammate and current Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian wasn't for the actions that Colter and some of his teammates has taken.

Other than the battle in the courtrooms that the Northwestern football players face with Northwestern University and likely the NCAA, these young athletes also must battle public opinion against them. Shortly after winning their court ruling in late March, a poll conducted by HBO Real Sports and The Marist College Center for Sports Communication showed that three in four Americans, or 75 percent, think college athletes shouldn't be allowed to join a union since they aren't college employees. The poll also shows that 22 percent feel the student athletes should be able to join a union while the remaining 4 percent are "unsure." In order to have the American public on their side in being in favor of student-athletes unionizing, the Northwestern football players will have to educate the public often about their intentions to ensure that they are not viewed as asking for too much. This Northwestern unionization process promises to aid in the change of the NCAA system, even more so than just unlimited food for college athletes.

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