A Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that football players, at Northwestern University, can unionize and thereby negotiate for Pay and Benefits.  An Appeal is scheduled for April 9 before the full NLRB Board in Washington, D. C.  This is a topic that has been kicking-around the Sports World for years and years.  And, it makes for good conversation at bars all over America.

Colleges in the U. S. have been playing a version of football since that first game–actually a combination of rugby and soccer–in late 1869, when Princeton University met Rutgers University on the playing field.  The idea of college athletes being paid for their services has only come into play since really, really Big Money entered College Sports in the modern era.  Money has been a key factor, mostly in Basketball and Football; however, football programs bring in most of the Revenue.

I believe that many colleges and universities tend to treat the so-called student-athletes as pawns.  They enroll them in school, expect high performance on game day and, perhaps, spit them out afterward.  College athletes spend a considerable amount of time in practice, conditioning, travel and the actual game participation.  And, many of these students are not on scholarship and the question of long-term health care and rehabilitation for sports-related injuries remains in question.

College Sports earns more than Ten Billion Dollars each year.  Big-Time Coaches net multi-Million Dollar contracts, many schools’ overall sports programs are funded by the big-two and, of course, college presidents receive their fair share.  But, what do the athletes who sweat, suffer injury, miss classes and otherwise compete get?

Last year around this time, I wrote about:

1.  Kevin Ross who, after playing four years of college basketball at Creighton University,, realized that he could not read at even a high school level.  He went back to school and was assigned to eighth grade. Then, he eventually sued Creighton since it had “accepted” him even though his ACT (college entrance exam) ranked him in the bottom quartile, while the average Creighton freshman ranked in the top 27%.  Also, many of his classes did not even count toward a degree.

2.  Then, there is the case of Kevin Ware, a University of Louisville basketball player, who suffered a compound fracture in his right leg toward the end of a March Madness semi-final game, last year.  When he couldn’t play this year, he was “red-shirted” (will practice, but not compete in games) for 2014.  What does that injury do for his potential professional career?  If, let’s say after another year, the school drops him, who will be responsible for long-term medical and rehabilitation expenses?  Or does the school just relinquish all responsibility for medical bills.

There are many examples of universities failing to live-up to their responsibilities toward student-athletes; however, these two come to mind due to the Men’s Basketball Tournament which is winding-down this weekend.  But, let’s focus on football; because, that’s where the money is; and the’s what the recent NLRB ruling, with Northwestern college football, was all about.

Last August, the IRS declared that it would recognize legal Same-Sex Marriages, performed in any state, as being valid for Income and Estate Tax, as well as Employee Benefits, regardless of the couple’s state of residence.  With that, I suggested that state prohibitions against Same-Sex Marriage were becoming a moot point.  The link is as follows:

Both Large and Small Business seems to have also jumped onto the bandwagon when it recently lobbied Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to Veto that state’s so-called “Religious Freedom” Law, which apparently was really intended to withhold service to Gays and Lesbians.  Likewise, the Tourism Industry has started to telegraph its displeasure for relinquishing so much business to states, like California and New York, that are catering to Same-Sex Marriages.  Once agin, Money Speaks!

This issue regarding college football teams (or other sports teams) unionizing has brought-up an interesting conundrum.  Federal Law applies to private colleges and universities; however, the respective state laws apply to state universities.  Might we expect the state legislatures to join together to create some sort of a by-pass on this issue? Perhaps allow Federal Labor Law to prevail.  Stranger things have happened.

Now, if you go to any state capitol (or business, neighborhood, bar or restaurant) in the Country, chances are that you will find a large number of college football fans–especially among the alumni of their state’s–or neighboring–major universities.  So, what do these colleagues do prior to the Big Game?  They harass or “trash-talk” each other.  So, I’m sure that these Good Ole Boys, and more than a few Gals, can find a work-around with regard to the Federal-State Law conundrum regarding college athletes being paid.

Can you imagine on that cold, gray day in November if that Big-Game cannot be played, because one school is public and the other is private?  That’s never going to happen!  Perhaps they can just look at how the Same-Sex Marriage issue has become a moot point–and they will find a work-around!



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