Northwestern players vote; Cash tells Fitzgerald ‘take seat’

The current Northwestern University football players will have a challenging decision to make Friday April  25.

The current Northwestern University football players will have a challenging decision to make Friday April 25.

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.

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald has not only voiced his opinion but against the  union but has clearly tried to sway the players as well.

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald has not only voiced his opinion against the union but has clearly tried to sway the players to vote against unionizing as well.

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.

Current Northwestern student-athlete Trevor Siemian has expressed he will not be voting to unionize and is grateful for what he has.

Current Northwestern student-athlete Trevor Siemian has expressed he will not be voting to unionize and is grateful for what he has.

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.

Swin Cash is outspoken in her support for the rights of the players to have a voice in how they are treated as student-athletes.

Swin Cash is outspoken in her support for the rights of the players to have a voice in how they are treated as student-athletes.

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.

Women’s team sports still face popularity and financial challenges in the U.S.

The 2013 Women's UConn Huskies got a chance to meet President Obama after winning the NCAA championship last year.

The 2013 Women’s UConn Huskies got a chance to meet President Obama after winning the NCAA championship last year.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Monday, March 31, 2014, the women’s University of Connecticut Huskies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will continue their individual pursuit for perfection this basketball season. With the women’s NCAA tournament underway, both UConn and Notre Dame need two more victories to setup an unprecedented showdown between two unbeaten teams for the national championship. UConn is hoping to repeat as national champions while Notre Dame is hoping to finally reach the zenith in their sport. As phenomenal an event this would be to watch, this potential outcome has generated very little buzz.

Lusia Harris was a groundbreaker in women's sports as college basketball player, Olympian, and NBA draft pick..

Lusia Harris was a groundbreaker in women’s sports as college basketball player, Olympian, and NBA draft pick..

Women’s collegiate sports has seen tremendous advances since the passing of Title IX in 1972 – the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal assistance. In the wake of the recent ruling that allows for Northwestern football players to unionize, it is helpful to remember the struggles that female college athletes have faced when trying to earn fair opportunities.

In women’s team sports, there have been fewer stars with sustaining power when compared to male team sports. There was momentum building in the mid 1970’s with interest in women’s basketball due to Lusia Harris from Delta State University in Mississippi. She helped bring the sport to the forefront with a silver medal finish in the first ever women’s basketball tournament in the Olympics in 1976. The president at Delta State would later decree a Lusia Harris Day by describing Harris as a “basketball star, world traveler, Olympic medalist, and All-American.” Harris would continue to make history as being the first and only woman officially selected in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft by the New Orleans Jazz in 1977. She never played in the NBA but her Olympic exploits helped propel women’s basketball into the next decade.

Nancy Lieberman had exceptional success as a college player, a professional player in multiple leagues, and as a coach.

Nancy Lieberman had exceptional success as a college player, a professional player in multiple leagues, and as a coach.

In the years following Harris there were two women’s college basketball players who gained major interest and excitement, Nancy Lieberman and Cheryl Miller. Lieberman earned the nickname “Lady Magic” as a reference to playing like Earvin “Magic” Johnson. She led her Old Dominion Monarchs to the national championship in 1979 and 1980. Miller, older sister of NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, was the first to make the family name famous while dominating at the University of Southern California.

Hall of Fame player Cheryl Miller was a transcendent player in the 1980's.

Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller was a transcendent basketball player in the 1980’s, who is described in admiring tones by current players.

“That’s something you’d remember forever,” remarked her high school basketball coach, Floyd Evans, as he reflected on the night she scored 105 points in a single game in her senior year.

The NCAA decided to sponsor the women’s basketball tournament in 1982. Miller led the Trojans to the NCAA championship in 1983 and 1984 while being named tournament MVP in both years. Miller also led the U.S. women’s team to the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. Miller was so dominant in her run at USC that the school retired her #31 jersey in 1986, becoming the first basketball player, male or female, to receive such an honor from USC at that time.

Sheryl Swoopes (l), Lisa Leslie (c), and Rebecca Lobo (r) were part of the inaugural class of the WNBA.

Sheryl Swoopes (l), Lisa Leslie (c), and Rebecca Lobo (r) were part of the inaugural class of the WNBA.

The struggle women’s team sports has had in sustaining popularity for their players who became popular in college is that there were few professional women’s league that had long time sustainability. Things changed in 1996 when the NBA financially supported the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBA). Since its inception, the WNBA has had several women transition from college basketball recognition to WNBA stardom. Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi, and Skylar Diggins represent some of the biggest names to enter the WNBA since 1996.

Julie Foudy (l), Mia Hamm (c), and Kristine Lilly (r) were part of a dominant stretch in women's soccer that included 2 World Cup titles and multiple Olympic gold medals.

Julie Foudy (l), Mia Hamm (c), and Kristine Lilly (r) were part of a dominant stretch in women’s soccer that included 2 World Cup titles and multiple Olympic gold medals.

While women’s basketball continues to have a professional league, it is not the only team sport women have excelled in. The U.S. women’s soccer team has been a powerful force in team sports, gaining immense success since the early 1990’s. They won the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 and won again in 1999. Also, they won the Olympic gold medal at all but one of the summer games since 1996. Those teams were led by Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and Mia Hamm. Hamm would become one of the biggest soccer stars in the sport. Donna de Varona, chair of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Organization Committee described the period:

“You saw 90,000 people packed in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California…fathers, daughters, families…cheering on these great players.”

Hope Solo's status as one of the most popular soccer players earns her a higher salary than her average contemporaries.

Hope Solo’s status as one of the most popular soccer players earns her a higher salary than her average contemporaries.

While the achievement gap between men and women has closed when it comes to performance in team sports, the gap between financial reward remains far apart. Women’s team sports still struggles to attract the fan base that can bring advertising dollars to their sports. It is clear that the distinction between individual and team sports for women changes the earning potential. For example, the average salary for the U.S. National Women’s Team (Soccer) is $25,000 a year whereas MLS salaries start at $32,000 per year for the men and often rises to the millions.

2013 WNBA MVP Candace Parker is one of the highest earning players in her sport, but her salary pales in comparison to her male counterparts.

2013 WNBA MVP Candace Parker is one of the highest earning players in her sport, but her salary pales in comparison to her male counterparts.

A more extreme example comes in recognizing that the maximum paid salary in the WNBA is $107,000 per year compared to the $30 million Kobe Bryant earned this season in the NBA. There is no doubt that these women are as exceptional in their profession as their male counterparts are in theirs. Hopefully, in the near future, women’s team sports will receive the proper recognition and see their revenue grow to a level that allows for most female athletes to live comfortably in team sports.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Northwestern players win first battle in legal war over paying college athletes

Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter continues to lead the efforts unionize college athletes.

Former Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter continues to lead the effort to unionize college athletes.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, Northwestern University’s football team received a ruling in their favor that allows for them to unionize as a workforce. The football team, led by former quarterback Kain Colter, had appealled to the Chicago branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to be recognized as a workforce, based on the income they generate for the university and the stipulations in place for scholarship athletes that prevent them from receiving any of the income they earn.

NLRB Peter Sung Ohr made the ruling allowing Northwestern football players to join a union.

NLRB Peter Sung Ohr made the ruling allowing Northwestern University’s football players to join a union.

The regional director of the NLRB, Peter Sung Ohr, issued a ruling allowing the Norhtwestern University football players to form a union. The are several key takeaways from Ohr’s ruling:
1) Northwestern University is a private institution so this ruling will not likely impact collegiate athletes in public and state colleges.
2) Ohr specifically highlighted $235 million in income Northwestern University’s football produced between 2003 and 2012.
3) Ohr also took into account the “50 – 60 hours per week student athletes are required to perform in order to receive the benefits of their scholarship.”
4) Ohr explained in his ruling that:

“The level of control that the university has over the football players, (dress codes, living arrangements, money restrictions, etc.) resembles the kind of control an employer has over an employee, not a school over a student.”

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy believes the NCAA has been fair in their compensation for student-athletes.

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy believes the NCAA has been fair in its compensation of student-athletes.

Though this ruling is a major victory for the players, the matter is far from settled. With this ruling, Northwestern University’s football players will be able to start pursuing the benefits of employees in a union. They will work towards the ability to collectively bargain for protections in work conditions, earnings, and health care coverage. Northwestern University is already on the record against the decision stating:

“We believe strongly that student-athletes are not employees, but students.”

The university has already made it clear that their legal team will appeal the decision. Northwestern University will be joined by the NCAA in their appeal efforts as the college sports body has also voiced displeasure with the ruling. NCAA chief legal officer was quoted in a statement as saying,

“We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.”

It is clear that this is the beginning of a legal battle that the NCAA definitely does not want to lose. Score one for the players, now it’s on to round two.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.