By Ken Reed

A new coalition of professors, from universities across the country, has formed to fight for economic justice for big-time college athletes.

The College Athletes Rights & Empowerment Faculty Coalition is a grassroots campaign designed to convince legislators, college administrators, members of the media, and the general public that football and basketball athletes at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools deserve to have a piece of the millions of dollars college sports bring to campuses.

“These are faculty who have come to understand the academic and economic nature of the system, and the really fundamental mistreatment of college athletes who are in football and basketball,” Richard Southall, a coalition member and former University of North Carolina professor who heads the College Sport Research Institute, said. “The basic position we are taking is that these athletes are employees and deserve protection afforded to employee status.”

A 12-page position paper the coalition recently released cites numerous studies that find the current system cheats athletes financially and academically. The growing mound of research on brain trauma and its potentially life-altering impact on football players is also driving the move toward economic justice for big-time college athletes.

The coalition’s formation comes as the National Labor Relations Board is deciding whether to support a regional director’s decision to allow football players at Northwestern University to organize as employees and form a union. Last year, the regional director found that the football players were athletes first, with long hours dedicated to their sport, and students second. Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who drove the Northwestern unionization effort, is a supporter of the new coalition.

Also on the economic justice for college athletes front, a federal judge in California last summer ruled in favor of paying college athletes for the use of their names, likenesses and images, though she sought to limit how much they should receive. That case is under appeal. A lawsuit of a similar nature is getting close to going to trial.

The slow march towards basic civil rights for college athletes continues.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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