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LostInParadise's avatar

Should NCAA players be allowed to unionize?

Asked by LostInParadise (17934 points ) February 12th, 2014

Players at Northwestern University have submitted an request to the National Labor Relations Board to be permitted to unionize. From an ethical or legal point of view, is this a legitimate request? From a legal point of view, the pivotal question is whether these athletes satisfy the definition of employee.

My view is that unionization is long overdue. College athletics is a big money maker and the idea of student athlete is a charade. These guys get in based on their athletic prowess and they are expected to put in considerable time to prepare for competitions. If they want to skip practice to study for a test they can have their scholarships withdrawn. It sure looks like they are employees.

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14 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, they should. And the NCAA should be broken up from its monopolistic restraint of trade practices.

Collegiate sports are big business, time to recognize the athletes are employees and work rules should apply.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Yes, they should be allowed to unionize. Other than physically attending a college, they have many characteristics of professional athletes. They exercise and practice daily. They sometimes play in games that are nationally televised and watched by countless thousands of fans. Their games take place in huge, expensive stadiums with a high ticket price. Team merchandise is sold. When students select colleges based off of the athletic program rather than the academic program, then I think it is fair to say that sports are the main focus of their lives.

A lot of money is made off of merchandise, ticket sales, television, and rivalries. Here in SC, the main rivals are USC and Clemson. This list shows the amount of money made by the various colleges. The University of Alabama made $123,769,841 in just the year 2008 alone.

elbanditoroso's avatar

agreed with @zenvelo and @PhiNotPi . College athletes have been taken advantage of for years.

TheRealOldHippie's avatar

Supposedly – and please note that first word – they’re students first and college athletes second. Failing grades will get them removed from the team. What happens if someone is removed? Does the union step in and put pressure on the coach to reinstate them, or the teachers to change their grades to a passing grade? The life of a professional athlete’s career is short on average, and it is imperative these kids have a college degree to fall back on since many of them squander the big bucks once they turn pro. As a result, they should stay in school, be students first and athletes second. And, just as an added thought, a student should not be allowed to be eligible for any professional sports draft until they have completed their college work and if they drop out, they should have to sit out a year before they can turn pro.

Your concept of unionization is just one more step in the dumbing down of these kids by making them semi-pro athletes which they are not. They are STUDENTS first – athletes second. Their rights are assigned to them by the school for which they play – they agreed to those terms when they signed their letter of intent to play for that school – therefore, they should have absolutely no right to unionize. When they turn pro after completing their education, they can join all the professional sports unions they want. Until then, they should concentrate on getting an education.

zenvelo's avatar

@TheRealOldHippie You are pre-supposing that, but in reality they are not students, many leave school before graduation, or fail to graduate. The NCAA imposes academic compliance on the athletes without obligating the school to mitigate the effects of team requirements on student success. There is no sanction on schools for poor graduation rates.

The idea of student athletes being students first is not a concept supported by the current structure of big time college athletic programs.

LostInParadise's avatar

@TheRealOldHippie , The students are treated as athletes first and students second. If academic load interferes with athletics, it is the academics that need to be sacrificed. One benefit of a union would be to establish rules that would make it possible for students to be able to balance team participation with classes.

rojo's avatar

Everyone should have the right, and has the responsibility, to unionize.

Since colleges are really just the minor leagues for most professional sports, the players should also be paid for their services by the colleges.

filmfann's avatar

My concern is that unionizing them will end up strengthening their focus on playing, not learning.
Okay, they make some money for a few years, but most don’t go pro, and they need to have that education under their belts to make a living in the world.

josie's avatar

I would support the notion only if they would relinquish their scholarships.

zenvelo's avatar

@josie Why would employees have to give back wages? Their scholarships should be more, not less.

hearkat's avatar

Wow. I think education and sports should be mutually exclusive. This is getting out of hand. Are athletics and academics combined in higher education institutions in other countries?

Universities should be in the business of acquiring knowledge through research and sharing knowledge through classes – not in the business of selling tickets and branded merchandise.

Jaxk's avatar

I worry that this would make massive changes and not all to our liking. If the athletes are employees, do they have to be students as well? What will happen to tuition? Instead of the athletic program being an asset to the school it may become a liability that raises tuition for everyone. If we do this for college, how about high schools? If playing football for the school makes you an employee, we have child labor laws that need to be addressed. It gets complicated.

rojo's avatar

What about students in “right to work” state schools? Will they unionize?

zenvelo's avatar

Well it’s going to happen at Northwestern!

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