College athletes need to be heard

The NCAA should grant athletes more formal representation.

After years of being exploited for financial gain without receiving compensation or proper medical care, student-athletes are standing up to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In October, Grambling State University football players refused to travel for their scheduled game against Jackson State, protesting the dangerous conditions of their athletics complex.

In another unprecedented move, Northwestern University football players have appealed to the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to join a labor union, the New York Times reported Jan. 28.

Kain Colter, Northwestern’s former starting quarterback, spoke at a news conference about the move, saying, “The same medical issues that professional athletes face are the same medical issues collegiate athletes face, except we’re left unprotected.”

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy addressed the effort, saying, “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education.”

It is the height of hypocrisy for the NCAA to reject reforms on the basis of how they would undercut the ideals of higher education. The NCAA has successfully built a multibillion-dollar industry on the backs of student-athletes, transforming college athletics into a quasi-minor league for the NBA and NFL. The NCAA is against players forming unions because of how it might disrupt revenue flow, not education.

It’s unlikely to succeed, but the Northwestern football players’ effort to form a union is an important step on the way to giving student-athletes a voice in decisions regarding scholarships and medical care.

Because of logistical and legal reasons, the labor board will probably rule against the union. But regardless if it’s through a union or a formal committee, it’s time the NCAA gave student-athletes a seat at the table.