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Our Take: Why athletes need representation

College athletes are seeking to form labor unions, just as they exist in the professional arena. It started with players at Northwestern University writing the words APU, All-Players-United, on their wristbands; but it didn’t end there. NCAA athletes can be recognized as employees, making football their “job.”

Athletes should be allowed to unionize, come together and make decisions regarding their academic endeavors, possibilities of monetary stipends, and how much time is to be spent with their prospective sport in comparison to the classroom.

The request to unionize was brought up to the NCAA, who responded saying, “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education.”

Despite the response by the NCAA, the facts show otherwise. If the sole purpose of college was to receive an “education,” why are athletes spending insurmountable amounts of time with their sport?

“Everything we do is centered around football. The amount of time spent on football is about 40-50 hours a week,” Colter told Sports Illustrated.

The NCAA feels that the Northwestern athletes’ requests are irrational.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said making athletes unionized employees “would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.” Emmert believes that the separation between student-athletes and employees of the university cannot coincide.

Emmert also threatened that “Current Division I schools would move to a non-scholarship Division III model rather than unionize.”

The NCAA believes its standards of a student-athlete are being held up in the collegiate institutions, but the facts show otherwise. Athletes aren’t able to pick the major they desire due to lack of time. If a class schedule conflicts with basketball, the class is the one that’s discarded. Is that putting academics first? Not even close.

Athletics are also keeping players from making money. Athletes need a chance to make money like any other college student. A nice part-time, on-campus opportunity to make money would remove most, if not all, illegal payments to players. It’s hard being a college student with empty pockets.

Healthcare is also a concern for collegiate athletes. Allowing players to have health benefits included in the signed contract, or letter of intent, is necessary.

As it stands, players have to pay from their own pockets for doctor bills that should be funded by the billions of dollars the NCAA makes yearly. Colter said that Northwestern did not cover an MRI exam he needed for an ankle injury he suffered last season. “I sacrificed my body for four years, and they sold my jersey,” he said. “They should protect me.”

The question remains: should college athletes be able to unionize and negotiate terms of their collegiate contracts?

With less than two percent of all collegiate athletes making the professional ranks, protecting the student-athletes need for healthcare, academic freedom and minimal livelihood becomes more important than ever.

If the NCAA would accommodate these needs, there would be no need for the unionization of collegiate athletes.

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