EVANSTON, Ill. — Kain Colter called Tuesday a “historic day,” one that began with a 7:45 a.m. meeting with Pat Fitzgerald in Evanston.
Colter informed the Northwestern coach what lay ahead — an 11:30 a.m. news conference where Colter became the face of a new movement.
For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union. Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association and a former UCLA linebacker, filed a petition on behalf of football players at Northwestern at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago. At least 30 percent of employees (in this case, at least 27 NU players) needed to be in favor of the union to file the document. The next step is a formal election, which is supervised by the NLRB.
Colter said college football players “need to have someone looking out for our best interests.”
He cautioned that this is not about pushing for college athletes to get paid.
“A lot of people will think this is all about money; it’s not,” he said. “We’re asking for a seat at the table to get our voice heard.”
Regarding the prospects of unionizing, Colter said: “Everything now is in the hands of the lawyers. We’re not expecting a decision to be made right away. It might take a year or two or go all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Colter, a quarterback and receiver who completed his college football career in December, said he hopes that Fitzgerald and the NU community will applaud his stance.
Among the things that the College Athletes Players Association, the name of the group that would represent the players, would push for are medical bills to be paid and scholarship protection, Colter said at the news conference.
The NCAA responded to the development with a statement that included this: “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”
Northwestern also responded, including this statement from Athletics Director Jim Phillips: “We love and are proud of our students. Northwestern teaches them to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world. Today’s action demonstrates that they are doing so.”