Dienhart: 'I'm all for this' players union

Dienhart: 'I'm all for this' players union

The move to unionized college athletes continues to gain momentum.

A report from ESPN says that Northwestern football players are beginning the process of being recognized as employees by reaching out for help from the National College Players Association, which filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern by submitting a form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.

[ MORE: Northwestern AD Jim Phillips releases statement ]

At the center of the movement is Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, whose eligibility has expired. In fact, it was Colter who reached out to a union organizer to help get Wildcats players involved.

“The action we’re taking isn’t because of any mistreatment by Northwestern,” Colter said in the story. “We love Northwestern. The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We’re interested in trying to help all players — at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It’s about protecting them and future generations to come.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

“Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”

I am all for this. The student-athlete needs a voice in the wilderness of collegiate athletics. College sports generates millions of dollars. And no sport generates more than football. The athletes are the ones who play the games and have the most on the line. Why shouldn’t their concerns be heard in a formal and organized fashion that a union would provide?

A union offers protection to its members. It offers a unified voice of a membership that can represent its constituency at the highest level of its industry. In this instance, a college athlete union can make sure its members are part of the process of running the industry that is fueled by their blood, sweat and sacrifice.

How can anyone argue against that notion?

This is just another issue in an ever-changing college landscape that is seeing rumblings of a movement to pay some players with some sort of stipend. There also is talk about a possible breakaway from the NCAA by schools that play in major conferences.

No doubt, the next few years could see some big changes in collegiate athletics, an arena that already has seen rampant conference realignment as school and leagues position themselves for the future. What that future will look like is anyone’s guess. But, it could include a players union.

Here’s a shot of Colter:

And the NCAA’s response to all of this?

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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