Northwestern a private university in Illinois is seeking union status for better treatment and medical benefits with the possibility of pay down the road. The football players on scholarship consider themselves employees and therefore, entitled to choose if they want to unionize according to a ruling in their favor by the National Labor Relations Board. The ruling has the possibility to impact college sports across the country.
Since 1953, the NCAA has taken advantage of college players calling them “student athletes,” a term created specifically to circumvent the responsibilities associated with an employee and employer relationship. The move by Northwestern will surely rekindle a dialogue on an issue that’s long overdue and desperately in need of a definitive answer. There is no denying college sports has transitioned into entertainment. With universities reaping record profits and college coaches receiving astronomical contracts the only participants not being compensated for their efforts are the players.
Last year, two groups of unpaid interns sued their employer for wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In one case the judge ruled in favor of a group of interns while in the other case, the judge ruled against with both cases being appealed. Maurice Pianko, an attorney in New York who handles cases for interns seeking compensation believes the move by Northwestern deserves merit but presenting it as a case under the Fair Labor Standards Act has a better chance for success making it easier for the players to win a case to unionize.Opponents to student unions believe the cost of a college tuition by way of a scholarship should serve as enough payment to satisfy the student athlete. However, colleges in the United States generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year and with that much money on the field the time for pay for play has arrived.