The National Collegiate Athletic Association generates billions of dollars for the schools in their organization. It is an industry that is built largely on the backs of student athletes, who practice, train and play their sport tirelessly.
““Among Division One football players, almost half were Black in 2020. But 83% of head coaches and 78% of athletic directors were white. They’re making huge salaries … And these young people generate all this wealth and they get nothing for it.” —Andy Levin, (MI-09)
Some members of Congress, including Rep. Andy Levin, feel it is time for these student athletes to be considered employees of their school and get their fair share of the money that goes along with that. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act is a bill that was recently introduced to both houses of Congress. It would classify student athletes as school employees and allow for them to unionize and collectively bargain.
Listen: Rep. Andy Levin on why college athletes should be school employees.
Rep. Andy Levin is a Democrat representing Michigan Ninth Congressional District. Levin is a sponsor of the College Athlete Right to Organize Act in the House of Representatives, and he says this bill is not just about labor rights but also economic and racial justice. “Among Division One football players, almost half were Black in 2020, but 83% of head coaches and 78% of athletic directors were white. They’re making huge salaries,” he says. “These young people generate all this wealth and they get nothing for it.”
According to Levin, many student athletes have their academics controlled by their coaches and schools. He points to the National Labor Relations Board investigation during a 2014 attempt by Northwestern football players to unionize as evidence of this. “The regional director of the board at that time did a really intense investigation, he found that a football player couldn’t take the chemistry class they wanted, because the football coach basically wouldn’t let them.”
Levin says that “democracy and sunshine” would both be positive changes and that it would create a safer environment for these athletes. “If people want to call it unstable, to let the people who actually make the money, have a say in what happens to the money, I guess we have to live with some instability,” he says. “In company after company, when workers have a say and have collective bargaining, workplaces are safer.”
“This bill that we’re talking about here with the ability for athletes to collectively bargain and be considered employees is the most direct challenge to this hallowed ground that the NCAA does not want to give up.” —Dan Murphy, ESPN
Dan Murphy is a staff writer at ESPN and has covered the College Athlete Right to Organize Act. He says changing employment status is something the NCAA is going to fight hard against. “This bill that we’re talking about here with the ability for athletes to collectively bargain and be considered employees is the most direct challenge to this hallowed ground that the NCAA does not want to give up.”
Murphy says that this bill could present an opportunity for colleges to live their professed values and create as many opportunities as possible, which they normally do not, and instead spend much of their money on football and basketball. “So this is forcing them to put their money where their mouth is and say ‘OK, if you really care about these opportunities, we need to spread some of that wealth out and maybe not pay the assistant football coach $2 million.”
Web post written by Dan Netter