The amateur status of intercollegiate athletes is in jeopardy after a landmark ruling involving the Northwestern University football team’s desire to become a unionized labor force employed by the University was decided by the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB ruled that the football team will be the first in the country to be unionized and the university has applied to the board for an appeal.
“Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost,”Alan Cubbage, the vice president of university relations for Northwestern said in his statement. “We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity.”
The decision, if it holds, could affect student-athletes across the country, including those here on Florida Southern’s campus.
The debate for giving student-athletes added benefits alongside scholarship money has been a heated issue that has gotten a considerable amount of national attention and many student-athletes playing for Florida Southern are in support of these added benefits.
“I think it’s something that’s quite tough for student athletes because they spend so much time whilst [training] here, it doesn’t always allow them to make income,” Corey Mills, a freshman soccer player said. “Especially as an international student where we’re not allowed to work off-campus.”
Many students are in favor of added benefits for the amount of work they put in on and off their respective playing fields, balancing hours of practice and games with a full load of schoolwork.
However, the allocation of these benefits is one reason why some students are not entirely on board with the move from being amateur to professional student-athletes.
“Schools shouldn’t give the starters some benefits and not the non-starters. [All the athletes] are working just as hard,” Lauren Shlemon, a sophomore volleyball player said. “Each student-athlete’s needs are so personalized, I feel like benefits would be unreasonable for some.”
While the NLRB’s decision may affect Northwestern athletics, Florida Southern’s Athletic Director Pete Meyer says the effects won’t be felt in Lakeland anytime soon.
“I don’t see a change in the small college culture because [here] at Florida Southern we don’t make money, we lose money,” Meyer said. “Obviously our athletic program brings national acclaim but there’s no monetary value that can placed on that national acclaim per individual.”
Meyer went on to say that, when it comes to large money-making institutions, the players deserve a cut of that money.
However, the amount per athlete may be hard to place a specific amount if it is based on the athlete’s impact.
While nothing has been set in stone regarding this issue, many people feel like this is a step in the right direction for giving student-athletes what they deserve for all their hard work.
Northwestern’s appeal request is due April 9 and it is up to the NLRB to decide the amateur status of intercollegiate athletes.