“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Vote No.”

120px-Floodt~1According to The New York Times, that’s the message that Northwestern is sending to its football players, who vote Friday on whether to form a union.  While the University and its boosters are not doing anything improper in expressing their anti-union views, many of the arguments that they are advancing are nonsense.  Free agency in professional sports and allowing professionals in the Olympics were both met with similar objections that they would ruin the purity of the sport.  Instead, they made both sports better for the fans and fairer to the athletes.  The same would be true if the Northwestern players vote yes.  If nothing else, that would force the NCAA to start getting serious about making reforms.

I’ll add one other note.  Students on campuses around the country protest on behalf of many causes here and abroad when they feel that people are being exploited.  When it comes to football and basketball players on their own campuses, though, you don’t hear anything.  I guess that cuts too close to home.

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4 Responses

  1. prometheefeu says:

    Maybe it’s because NCAA athletes already get scholarships, facilities, personnel, sometimes favorable treatment from professors, fame, a shot at a professional career in a well-respected field, etc… They don’t need the help of other students.

  2. Gerard Magliocca says:

    Curt Flood got paid more than the average worker at the time. I guess you feel like he was being treated fairly by the owners.

  3. KDK says:

    I teach this and similar cases in class and would say that the students, in most years, are about evenly divided in their views on this. Many take the view espoused above by prometheefeu that the athletes are already well-compensated and thus not exploited. Others find the current system corrupt, for all of the obvious reasons.

    I do think that another factor, related to the “too close to home” point, is the way in which non-athlete students perceive the athletes *as students.* That is, at least for revenue-producing athletes, they are correctly viewed in many cases as students in name only – about half will never graduate, they lack the entry qualifications to which other students are held, and are not subject to the same academic standards. In some well-publicized cases they are not even talking real courses. I strongly suspect this impacts student views on the subject, generates resentment in some, and prevents the sort of “solidarity” one might otherwise expect to see from fellow students.

    On the specific issue of union representation, I believe my students were uniformly supportive, in part because of non-monetary issues such as health care, practice and game schedules, etc. The divisions emerged when amateurism was challenged more directly, as in the recent Kessler antitrust filing.