Go back and read Allahpundit’s primer on the regional NLRB’s (immediately appealed) March ruling that Northwestern University football players are employees of the school, and are therefore entitled to form a union. That decision precipitated today’s vote — the official results of which likely won’t be known for months, or even years, due to a lengthy anticipated appeals process. The unionization push has become a hot topic in sports media and a political lightning rod. The university, coaching staff, and many former players have come out strongly against the idea, and some current members of the team have suggested that they weren’t painted an accurate picture of coming attractions when they were pressured to sign the petition that set all of this into motion. Although the formal tally remains shrouded in mystery, several Chicago-based reporters with ties to NU are reporting that the vote was lopsided:
A high-placed #Northwestern source believes the union receives in the range of 60 ‘No’ votes out of 75 players.
— Chris Emma (@CEmmaScout) April 25, 2014
If that’s an accurate snapshot, the team said “no thanks” to unionization by a decisive four-to-one margin. The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein says that estimate sounds about right, based on what he’s hearing:
That result would effectively shut down this issue at Northwestern for the foreseeable future, but the hype around the story and the NLRB’s initial decision all but guarantees the debate over college athletes’ collective bargaining “rights” and compensation will rage for quite some time. As a proud Northwestern alum, I’m pleased by today’s apparent outcome and selfishly hopeful that the program can put this entire controversy in the rear-view mirror. Talk about a corrosive off-field distraction. Northwestern was, in some respects, an unfortunate test case for this effort, given its top-ranked FBS player graduation rate. The Wildcat program prides itself in doing things the right way, and taking the concept of “student-athletes” seriously. When push came to shove, it seems as though a roiling, politics-laden fight is not what a bunch of teenagers signed up for when they committed to play football at NU. Good riddance to the union. All that being said, much of the union backers’ stated agenda is unobjectionable, and I hope that this experience might serve as a catalyst for some important reforms. Former Northwestern quarterback CJ Bacher (not to be confused with Kain Colter, the polarizing face of the United Steelworkers-backed unionization movement) has written extensively and thoughtfully about why many of the “demands” are legitimate, while warning against opening the Pandora’s box of unionization. The current team evidently took those admonitions to heart, deciding against testing the laws of unintended consequences. If this firestorm ends up bringing about needed changes in big-time college sports without transforming teams into collections of unionized mercenaries, that’s a win-win in my book. Speaking of winning, yes — more of that, please. I’ll leave you with a burst of school spirit:
UPDATE – Northwestern’s official statement, which doesn’t address today’s outcome, but strikes something of a relieved tone:
— Northwestern Sports (@NU_Sports) April 25, 2014