Northwestern University football players, Kain Colter seek unionization of college football

February 12, 2014 (CHICAGO)

An effort by Northwestern University football players to unionize was the subject of a hearing Wednesday morning in Chicago.

The National Labor Relations Board is hearing arguments on the matter and will decide whether or not players are considered employees.

Northwestern says in this case, the answer is no. Attorneys representing the university football players, however, say the roles are not mutually exclusive.

85 of the 100 players on Northwestern University's football roster receive athletic scholarships. They say this money compensates the [players] for spending more than 40 hours each week practicing, playing and traveling. They are subjected to stressful working conditions in the face of potentially serious injuries and the university profits from their likenesses and images.

Still, Northwestern says these young men do not work for the university and their participation in football is voluntary.

''Our position is that they're students first and foremost. And they are on scholarships. And those scholarships are there for their educational experience and that's the primary reason for them,'' said Bob Rowley, a Northwestern University spokesman.

''Kain Colter, who will testify, will talk about his jersey is sold; he'll talk about his imagery, he has to give up his right to his image so the different video games can be sold,'' said John Adam, an attorney for the College Athletics Protection Association.

Northwestern Quarterback Kain Colter is among six or seven players expected to testify when the hearing reconvenes at The Rookery next Tuesday.

Labor relations experts say that even if the players fail in their bid to unionize there are bills going through Congress that would give student-athletes some of the benefits they would otherwise be entitled to as employees in the workforce.

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