Kain Colter gives testimony for college football union to labor board
Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter began the process of arguing for a players union at a National Labor Relations Board hearing in Chicago.
The National Labor Relations Board heard testimony from former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter on Tuesday, as Northwestern football players try to make history with the first union for college athletes.
In recent months, Colter has become the face of the players' movement in college athletics. He first displayed the "APU" -- for "All Players United" -- during the 2013 season with his Northwestern teammates, and the Wildcats quarterback has stood side-by-side with leaders of the National College Players Association (NCPA) and College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) as players have begun the fight for rights and representation in college sports.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Colter said playing college football "truly is a job" and spoke of the 50-to-60 hour work weeks needed to prepare for games. He said that most of the team's 85 scholarship players supported forming a union at Northwestern; a movement that also has the support of the United Steelworkers.
The goals of the CAPA extend beyond forming a union at Northwestern, but if the NLRB recognizes college football players (in this case, the Wildcats) as employees it could flip the entire model of amateur athletics upside down.
At Tuesday's hearing in Chicago, Northwestern attorney Alex Barbour questioned why such a prestigious academic institution was chosen as a "test case."
"Academics always trump athletics at Northwestern," Barbour said. "Frankly, Northwestern has a great deal of difficulty understanding why it was chosen as a test case. The reality is that Northwestern is not a football factory. It is first and foremost a premier academic institution. Student-athletes receive a world-class education, free tutoring services, core academic advice and personal and career development opportunity."
Barbour and the rest of Northwestern's legal representation has no plans to defend the NCAA or other football programs in this issue, choosing instead to focus only on Northwestern and this specific case.
Whether history is made at Northwestern is yet to be seen, but the players have a few clearly-stated goals that will continue to be issues worth pursuing. Among those include a voice in health and safety issues and financial security, or insurance, for players in the event of injury or long-term health problems.
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