Press Release

High Stakes Hearing in Northwestern Football Players’ Push to Unionize

Injured Playing for Northwestern, Former Football Player Voices Support For Union

Chicago—Three weeks after the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) introduced itself as the first labor organization seeking to unionize college athletes and announced that Northwestern football players signed union cards in hopes of joining, former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter will be first to testify in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing in Chicago, today at 9:30 am (Central Time).

Colter stated, “Players put their bodies on the line while generating billions of dollars per year in NCAA sports.  Covering sports-related medical expenses for current and former players should not be optional, it should be guaranteed.”

Former Northwestern football player Jeff Yarbrough supports the unionization effort.  Yarbrough still suffers from injuries he sustained while playing football at Northwestern.  Once one of the fastest runners in the state of Illinois, Yarbrough now has a titanium rod in each leg and, at the age of 27, has severe pain when attempting to run.  Medical specialists say that he could reduce his pain if he underwent surgery but the medical procedure could cost Yarbrough thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.  Northwestern only covers sports-related medical expenses for up to one year after a player’s eligibility expires.

Yarbrough stated, "I really support what Kain Colter and the current Northwestern players are trying to achieve through unionizing, especially the goal of extended medical protection for players after their playing days.”

In a legal filing as a defendant in current concussion litigation, the NCAA recently declared, “The NCAA has no legal duty to protect student-athletes”.

CAPA President Ramogi Huma stated, “The stakes are high.  NCAA sports has failed to provide basic protections to college athletes, and this ruling will determine if players will gain the necessary leverage to protect themselves.”

The CAPA legal team has been provided by the United Steelworkers Union, which has committed to support CAPA’s efforts.  Steelworkers National Political Director Tim Waters stated, “We are confident that the NLRB will affirm Northwestern football players’ employee status, and are encouraged to know that former NLRB Chairman William Gould predicts that we will ultimately prevail.”

If CAPA successfully argues that Northwestern football players are employees, it would give the players the right to collectively bargain for protections that are currently not afforded to them.

The NLRB moved the location of the hearing from the Chicago National Labor Relations Board office to the United States Courthouse located at 219 South Dearborn Street, Rm 1300 to accommodate the large number of media expected to be in attendance.  Colter, Huma, and Waters will address the media at the conclusion of Tuesday’s proceedings.


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