The National Labor Relations Board in Chicago recently ruled that athletes at Northwestern are school employees because of the money they bring in for their university. This means it is legal for the athletes at Northwestern to unionize. If other schools rule in a similar fashion we could see the formation of a union amongst all college athletes. The college athletes want three things that they could gain with a union. First, they want free health benefits for the remainder of their lives. Second they want to be able to stay at the university on their scholarship even if they are injured and can’t play their sport anymore. Thirdly, the athletes want to be payed for their service to the school.
I believe college athletes deserve free health benefits for life. Every time they step on the field or court they risk their well being, and the university profits from it. There have been plenty of reports recently about the lasting health issues of playing sports especially in football. Athletes can suffer from brain damage and other dangerous health issues for the rest of their lives because of their participation in sports. I think it is only fair that the universities profiting from the athletes should have to provide health care for the athletes even after they are done competing. People will say that it is the athletes choice to play the sport and they know the health risks so it is their problem if they get hurt. While this is true, it is the university that is making money off of their performance so the university should be providing health benefits.
The issue of athletes being able to stay at a university on a scholarship even if they can no longer compete is a tricky one. The athletes were promised a free college education when they sign a scholarship, but that is part of a contract that states that they receive the free education in exchange for their participation in sports. The athletes are not holding up their end of the bargain if they are no longer competing, but they didn’t choose to stop competing if they get hurt. You also have to consider the fact that it is unlikely in the case of most athletes that they would get in to the colleges they attend if it weren’t for their athletic scholarship. It is unfair to give someone who isn’t qualified that education without receiving something in return. Most likely the majority of athletes at elite schools like Stanford would not be able to attend if they weren’t athletes. I think the university should have to continue to allow the students to attend the school on a scholarship even if they get hurt and can no longer compete. The athletes didn’t choose to get hurt, so you can’t punish them for something that they had no control over. The student athletes risked their health for a free education and unfortunately they were injured. It is unjust to take away their free education because of an injury. However, I think a doctor must certify that they can no longer compete in order for them to be able to keep their scholarships. The athletes have to do their best to uphold their end of the contract.
Finally we come to the most talked about issue in college sports: should the athletes be payed? I think the notion that college athletes deserve to be payed is absolutely ludicrous. College athletes are already payed because they receive a scholarship for a free education. This can be equivalent to hundreds of thousands of dollars and they get for free. People argue that they bring in so much money for the universities so they should receive some of that profit. The bottom line is that they already do. They also receive coaching and development in their sport from some of the best coaches on the planet and they have the opportunity to develop as players and then earn a contract on the professional level. It is unfair to pay the athletes even more when they already receive so much from the college.
The bottom line is that a union could help solve a lot of issues that face college athletes. While some of the things they want are a bit ridiculous there are some serious problems that could be solved if the players unionize. I think a union would benefit the athletes as well as the NCAA tremendously and is a strong step in the right direction.