Weather Updates

Union chief’s immediate focus on policy, not money

FILE - In this Jan. 28 2014 file phoNorthwestern quarterback KaColter right speaks while College Athletes Players AssociatiPresident Ramogi Humlistens

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2014, file photo, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, right, speaks while College Athletes Players Association President Ramogi Huma listens during a news conference in Chicago. In a Wednesday, March 26, 2014, landmark ruling, a federal agency has given football players at Northwestern University the green light to unionize. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File) ORG XMIT: NY168

storyidforme: 64318571
tmspicid: 23000207
fileheaderid: 11163752

Updated: May 2, 2014 6:30AM

The question of whether college athletes are employees long predated the College Athletes Association.

But that question was answered when the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Northwestern’s football players on Wednesday and granted them the right to unionize.

Though the university is appealing the ruling, the recognition of CAPA as a union has raised even more questions.

Chief among them: How will CAPA be able to negotiate while Northwestern is still bound by NCAA’s rules of amateurism?

“Right now there are some things that schools could do under NCAA rules and there are some [CAPA] goals under that,” CAPA President Ramogi Huma said in a phone interview.

The conventional treatise on revenue-generating college athletes is that they should be duly compensated.

Though he has never restricted the possibilities for CAPA, Huma’s current focus appears more based on policy. He would like to see health coverage for current and former players, reform of transfer rules and seeks to implement policies to reduce traumatic brain injury.

All of that can be done under current NCAA rules.

While CAPA has acknowledged that Northwestern does show great interest in the welfare of its players, the university has maintained an obstructionist view when it comes to the formal creation of a body to advocate for them.

“We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students,” the university’s public relations office said in a statement released Wednesday.

If that’s the case, why isn’t participation in athletics a graduation requirement for all students? Why don’t current athletes get course credit for competing?

Ultimately, Huma feels CAPA was successful because of its ability to narrow its focus.

“When you look at the ruling, I think he [the regional director of the Chicago NLRB office] stuck to precedent and labor law and that’s how we went about the case: labor law, precedent and application to the situation,” Huma said.

“It’s pretty objective. There was no gray area.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.