NFLPA supports college effort to unionize, DeMaurice Smith says


(Jim Mone / AP)

While Shabazz Napier was grabbing headlines for a comment about going to bed “starving” and firing a shot at the NCAA for banning Connecticut from postseason for a year, leaders of the NCAA and universities were pressing their argument for why college players should not have the right to unionize.

They made their arguments in op-ed pieces on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, while a piece by the NFL Players Association’s executive director was rejected by one of the organizations. In that essay in support of the new College Athletes Players Association, which was published on Huffington Post, DeMaurice Smith wrote about exactly what CAPA hopes to bring to college players. Napier’s comments about lacking money for food aside, CAPA is advocating something besides pay-for-play.

In the more than 100 years since the NCAA was founded, it has not allowed athletes to have a seat at the table to discuss serious issues and therefore has done little to address full medical coverage for injuries sustained, limitations on practice time, scholarship shortfalls and rules to make promised education a reality. These are the real issues for Northwestern’s “student athletes,” not the classic bait-and-switch argument that recent columns by university presidents and NCAA officials made regarding whether or not college athletes should get paid.

Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback, helped lead the drive to unionize and, in a speech last week in Washington, he and CAPA president Ramogi Huma stressed that their mission “is not about salary.” It’s about things like medical care and continuing education. Because of that, the organization has the NFLPA’s support.

Our union of professional football players stands firmly behind anyone who demands to be heard as a team. Every NFL player — past, present, and future — owes a debt of gratitude to our founders: Frank Gifford, Don Shula, Sam Huff and Norm Van Brocklin, who, in 1956, decided that they wanted to negotiate as a team with NFL owners over cleaner clothes, better work rules, better treatment of injuries and better health care. Our collective bargaining agreement today includes better pensions and benefits, safer practices, and injury protections because they fought for and won the ability to bargain and fight as one team.

Smith’s full essay is here on HuffPost. It’s worth your time. (University of Delaware President Patrick T. Harker’s Times op-ed is here; the Journal piece (by LouAnna Simon, Michigan State president and chairperson of the NCAA executive committee, and Nathan Hatch, Wake Forest president and NCAA Division I board of directors chairperson) is here.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.

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Kelyn Soong · April 9, 2014