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Kain Colter’s attitude undermines his effort to unionize football players



KaColter made history when he lobbied National Labor Relations Board Chicago OK unionizatifor NU players. | M. Spencer Green/AP

Kain Colter made history when he lobbied the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago to OK unionization for NU players. | M. Spencer Green/AP

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Updated: March 20, 2014 6:51AM

By any moral standard, the NCAA fleeces college athletes of revenue they generate for their universities. Contrary to the NCAA member institutions, which profit on the backs of these athletes, individuals are prohibited from using their likenesses and success on the field for financial gain.

It’s an age-old debate that is being addressed by the College Athletes Players Association, which made its case before the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday at the Dirksen Federal Building in an effort to help members of the Northwestern football team gain recognition as a union.

But by slinging mud toward the university from which he will earn his degree, former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter has gone about lobbying for the issue in the wrong way.

In more than five hours of testimony, Colter went from being well-spoken to belligerently grandstanding as he accused NU of failing to pay his medical bills and of holding him back from reaching his full academic potential. He even compared the preparation of a college football player to that of a Navy SEAL readying for a military operation in Iraq.

This issue concerns the NCAA’s bylaws, but Colter made it about tarnishing a program that has had a pristine reputation under coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Colter made some excellent points about the overwhelming amount of time he dedicated to football. He further cited mandatory off-the-field commitments, such as certain team meals that players are forced to pay for out of their stipends, to support the idea they are employees.

But his reckless accusations undermined those efforts. His assertion that NU football players are limited in their majors and course selections is preposterous at a university that gives its student-athletes priority registration.

Colter claimed he had to abandon his pursuit of a premed major as a result of his participation in football, but football didn’t stop former Florida State safety Myron Rolle from fulfilling the same requirements. Rolle also earned a Rhodes Scholarship. And Florida State is much more a ‘‘football factory’’ than NU, which boasts the best graduation rate of any football program in the country.

Colter also alleged NU has refused to pay for an MRI exam he had before having surgery on his ankle. During cross-examination, it was revealed the university is in the process of paying for it.

Colter’s anger overshadowed an issue that deserves more thought-out representation. Throughout his college career, Colter was known as one of the most well-spoken players in the country. He wasn’t that guy Tuesday. Instead, he failed to give NU any recognition for his success.

He did, however, acknowledge to some degree that a class called Contemporary Issues of the Modern Working Place provided the impetus for his founding of CAPA. At least football didn’t restrict him from enrolling in that class.


Twitter: @SethGruen

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