Students or employees?

Former Northwestern Quarterback Kain Colter throws the ball in a game last season. Colter supports the unionization attempt and is proud of what his team has accomplished. Photo taken from

Former Northwestern Quarterback Kain Colter throws the ball in a game last season. Colter supports the unionization attempt and is proud of what his team has accomplished. Photo taken from

As a Chicago-native, the National Labor Relations Board’s attempt to unionize Northwestern University’s scholarship football players piqued my interest more than it may have piqued others’. After a Board official ruled that the players were employees last month, the team voted Friday, April 25.


Northwestern officials strongly oppose the formation of a union and many players feel as if they would be betraying the University if they approved the proposition. Others, however, feel that unionizing would eliminate sports-related medical bills and losing scholarships to injuries.


Although it is not expected to pass, union supporters are glad Northwestern has broken the ice for potential schools to follow.


Almost the moment the story was broken, I immediately began to hear opinions regarding the proposal. These comments came from friends who attend the University, political pundits, and my family. While part of me does not want to accept a reality in which college students are literally paid to go to school, I understand some aspects of the union argument. I believe that a form of guaranteed insurance for all players, rather than unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, and a portion of the sports department’s revenue, would be a better option.


Like many modern controversial ideas, the debate will likely fall down party lines, but I think all Americans will agree that college players deserve to be kept healthy before all else.


2 thoughts on “Students or employees?

  1. I feel like this discussion has been happening for awhile now. It seems like schools, government, etc. are always back and forth on whether college athletes should be paid to play. I’m not sure if any other school (although I doubt it) has gone so far as to take a vote to see if the players should join a union, I think that eventually, college athletes will be paid. I can see arguments for both sides, but it does make sense from the union perspective to have insurance to offset medical bills, etc. It will be interesting to see what happens after the results of the vote are released. Either way, I would bet it will start discussions at many other large universities in the country.

  2. Hi!

    This is well-written (but “Chicago native” is not hyphenated)!

    About your viewpoint–think about this: allowing unions in always means

    loss of monetary control and free will to  both companies and universities. 

    Unions will force  the university  to spend certain amounts; and tell them what

    kind of insurance to provide. They will specif y a minimum continued

    level of compensation even though player might not be

    participating in the sport.  Costs might then be passed on to the general

    school population.   Also, the annoying specter of  disruptive team strikes becomes


    Sports scholarships are based on

    a player providing an above-average level of expertise, in

    exchange for full or partial-payment of college.

    I f the player is injured, he or she is not fulfilling the scholarship–

    and usually does not receive further payment through

    the scholarship for school.  It is unfortunate, but they can apply for

    loans, other aid, etc. if needed.  The scholarships have terms and conditions,

    and that’s life.

    Athletes need to realize going in, that there are risks associated with

    contact sports.  The universities value their teams and  probably already provide an

    extra “sports accident” health

    policy under which they are covered –with little or

    no cost to student.  They also provide some money–but with unions

    involved, it will never be enough!

    Love, mom

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