Efforts to unionize Northwestern football players have brought the college athletics model out of the sports realm and into politics. In order to avoid confusion, Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), will visit Washington, D.C. to discuss the movement with members of Congress.
Huma told ESPN's Outside The Lines that he and Colter want to "correct some of the false statements that have been made about what we're trying to do." In the days since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in favor of the players, legislators from both sides of the argument have voiced their support or disapproval of Northwestern's potentially historic union movement.
The closed-door meetings will follow mixed reaction among key politicians to last week's decision by the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board that football players at Northwestern qualify as employees under the definition established by federal labor law.
Strong support came from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), whose son played soccer at the University of Virginia. He told The Washington Post, "Of course they should be able to organize. The way these people are treated by the NCAA and the universities themselves is really unpardonable, and I wish them well. I'll do anything I can to help."
Far less enthused was Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. Department of Education secretary and former president of the University of Tennessee.
"Imagine a university's basketball players striking before a Sweet 16 game demanding shorter practices, bigger dorm rooms, better food and no classes before 11 a.m.," he said. "This is an absurd decision that will destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it."
Wednesday's ruling will only gives the CAPA the opportunity to form a union at Northwestern, and there is no plan in motion to continue the movement at other schools. Romogi Huma, president of the CAPA, told CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler that the group wants players to negotiate with schools in a collective bargaining situation.
"Typically it would be representatives from the union itself and Kain and a couple of player reps, they would come on, and try to negotiate," Huma told CBSSports.com. "Sitting across the table with the athletic director and compliance officer and probably whoever handles issues."
Northwestern plans to appeal the ruling and the NCAA issued a statement strongly disagreeing with "the notion that student-athletes are employees."