By Charles Glover, Jr.
The Northwestern football players will vote on whether to unionize this coming Friday, April 25. There has been plenty of discussion about the decision facing these young men. While there has been public support for the players, they would benefit from having that support on campus ahead of their decision. Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald has publicly stated his objection to the players voting to join a union. Fitzgerald used the team’s practice to voice his disapproval stating:
“I believe it’s in their best interest to vote no…I know our guys trust me. I’ve been pretty clear with my support.”
It is clear the players have heard the coach’s message consistently since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr issued a ruling in March, allowing the Northwestern football players to join a union.
The impact of the consistent voices against unionizing was felt by at least one current player, quarterback Trevor Siemian. Siemian is one of the few players who has made public statements about the upcoming choice he has to make regarding joining a union. He said that he did not agree with the efforts of former quarterback Kain Colter to unionize. Siemian has gone on the record declaring he will not be voting for the union.
“I’m treated far better than I deserve here…I’ve known coach Fitz five or six years now,” Siemian said. The voting process is anonymous for the players.
Northwestern University has outspoken alumni who have verbally supported the players’ right to form a union. Many of these alumni graduated from the university’s esteemed journalism program.
Nationally recognized journalists like Brent Musburger, Rich Eisen, J.A. Adande, Mike Greenberg, Kevin Blackistone, Christine Brennan, and Michael Wilbon are some of the most illustrious alumni from Northwestern who actively cover sports. The presence of any of these powerful alumni on campus this week may help stem any tide of persuasion from the coach and other college administrators who may not want the players to vote yes on Friday.
However, support for the players to have a voice in decisions that affect them is widespread. Swin Cash, WNBA player and former ESPN analyst shared her thoughts on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show this weekend.
“These players are being oppressed and let me say something to coach Fitzgerald: ‘take several seats.’ Coaches stay out of it…players need to have rights,” she said.
Cash is one of the many former college athletes who can relate to the struggles that student-athletes endure. Many supporters are hoping Northwestern football players are the genesis of a change in the way student-athletes are treated in the future.
The importance of this vote cannot be understated as it will change the way players are treated by coaches and school executives. Currently, Northwestern’s coach Fitzgerald has easy access to the players which gives him an unfair advantage in sharing his opinion repeatedly. He may convince some of the players that his point of view is what is best for the players and intimidate them into voting against their best interests.
It would be beneficial for the players to have countering voices with access to those players on their campus prior to their decision to give them balance and encouragement Give the players support in person as well as from a distance. OnPointPress.net
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.