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Sports

January 30, 2014

Unionization putting scare into NCAA

(Continued)

His group is supported by a United Steelworkers union, which was once the home of sports union pioneer Marvin Miller. The face of the movement is former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who is being backed by at least 30 percent of Northwestern players.

This is not some wristband protest or rhetorical filibuster. This is real. And although labor experts warn that the universities and the NCAA could fight this movement all the way to federal court, the message and mandate are clear enough to hasten change.

“This is high-prestige, high-profile players at a good university saying, ‘Hey, we want to join a union,’” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a UC Santa Barbara history professor and director of the school’s Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy. “This means something.”

The announcement was made at a Chicago news conference during which Huma attacked the NCAA for, among other things, allowing the removal of scholarships from injured players, and lacking a legal obligation to properly protect them from concussions. He didn’t specifically ask for salaries, but that’s coming.

If a student instructor in the UC system can be paid a union-agreed salary of about $8,000 a semester for a 20-hour workweek, what would UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley be worth at a school that receives more than $20 million a year from Pac-12 television fees alone?

“College athletes continue to be subject to unjust and unethical treatment in NCAA sports despite the extraordinary value they bring to their universities,” Huma said at the news conference, adding, “The current model represents a dictatorship.”

At first blush, it’s difficult to understand how the word “dictatorship” can be applied to institutions that provide athletes with tuition, room, board and books in exchange for their athletic services. Any parent who has ever written a five-figure tuition check could certainly dispute the idea that scholarship athletes are not paid.

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