With Support Evaporating, Will Northwestern's Football Team Vote Against Unionization?


The 95 members of Northwestern's football team have a very important vote coming up on April 25.

In a closed vote, Northwestern's team will decide whether or not they want to unionize, a process that would have massive repercussions for both their school, their conference, and NCAA sports as a whole. Backup QB Kain Colter is leading the charge, and his efforts have gotten the attention of the NCAA (who vehemently oppose the move) and labor advocacy groups in Washington DC who are lending their support.

Courts have already ruled that the players meet Illinois' definition for employees and have every right to vote, but it seems as though the initial groundswell of support may be subsiding - both inside and outside the locker room.

According to CBS Chicago's Chris Emma, a number of players are wary of the chaos that unionizing could create.

“It’s not worth risking what I love here, the people that I love, hurting relationships or creating any void between us, members of the team, members of the community, alumni, for a minute chance to make change at the grander level,” said senior linebacker Colin Ellis.

Starting QB Trevor Siemian has also spoken out against the push for unionization. According to Siemian, "a good portion of the team" doesn't want to unionize.

According to Emma, the tide turned when Colter's appeals put him in direct conflict with head coach Pat Fitzgerald, a staunch opponent of unionization.

“I’m very proud of our guys stepping up for raising national issues, but that’s not what this is about,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s my continued education to the guys — there are mechanisms and educating them on what they are. I’m incredibly proud of them, and I believe there are mechanisms for change. It’s been well documented that I’m an advocate for change, I just don’t believe a union is the way to go.”

So, will Northwestern's players vote against unionization on the 25th? It's too early to say for sure, but Emma believes that "likely an overwhelming majority" will vote against the move. It's far too early to predict what kind of effect this will have on the NCAA and the larger issues facing it, but it's already clear that real reform won't happen overnight.

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