Student Athletes Can Form Unions, Lawyers Say “Precedent has Definitely Been Set”

CHICAGO (AP) – In a major decision that could change the future of college athletics, a group of football players at Northwestern University has won the right to consider themselves employees – all because of the amount of hours they put out on the field.

The decision means the athletes have the right to start a union because this is an industry that rakes in millions of dollars every year.

“I don’t think there is any question that a precedent has been set,” says employment attorney Karen Michael. “A precedent has definitely been set.”

Lawyers for the players argued that they sometimes spend 50 to 60 hours on the field every week. And for a football program that raked in $235 million over 10 years, some think players should get a cut of that money.

But for NCAA and member schools, money would take away from the true meaning of what college athletics is all about.

“Member institutions like Richmond, we allow a forum for amateur athletes to compete against one another while enhancing their educational experience,” says Maura Smith, UR Asst. Ad for Compliance

The NCAA also issued a statement after Wednesday’s decision saying “We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.”

 “The NCAA role in this decision was nonexistent,” Michael says. “The board didn’t really care about what rules the NCAA puts on players and whether or not that will impact their collective-bargaining rights.”

Michael says the students put together a great argument and it may very well change college level sports in private institutions in the years to come.

“It kind of takes the fun out of the whole situation,” she says. “Because now these players, I mean now they’re going to be focusing on more so this whole legal process instead of probably what they love to do, which is playing sports.”

Northwestern University has until April 9 to appeal its decision and the school has already said it will do so.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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