Press Release

Historic Northwestern Football Players' Union Vote is a Win-Win

Chicago — Northwestern football players made history today when they became the first college athletes to cast a vote about whether or not to be represented by a union. This vote comes one month after National Labor Relations Board Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr ruled that Northwestern football players meet the definition of employee and have the right to unionize.

Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who led the effort to unionize the Northwestern football team, stated, “I’m proud of what the Northwestern football team has accomplished. They are giving a voice to the voiceless and empowering current and future college athletes. We’re one step closer to a world where college athletes are not stuck with sports related medical bills, do not lose their scholarships when they are injured, are not subject to unnecessary brain trauma and are given better opportunities to complete their degree.”

CAPA President Ramogi Huma stated, “Today is special because college athletes exercised their rights under labor laws, rights the NCAA has fought hard to deny them. Today’s vote clearly demonstrates that amateurism is a myth and that college athletes are employees. The NCAA cannot vacate this moment in history and its implications for the future.”

CAPA is supported by the United Steelworkers Union, which is paying the legal fees incurred by CAPA in asserting the legal rights of football players in the NLRB proceeding at Northwestern.

United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard stated, “The USW is extremely proud of the football players at Northwestern. For the first time ever, college athletes today have cast a vote to have a voice in their future. Regardless of how the vote turns out after the pressure being applied to the players, one thing is clear: These players have already won, and their victory is a victory for hundreds of thousands of current college athletes and the millions more coming in their footsteps.”

Steelworkers Political Director Tim Waters stated, “Today’s union vote at NU has signaled the biggest victory yet for players in the war for college athletes’ rights.  Regardless of the outcome of the vote, change has come to big time college sports. The players have proven they are employees and as such, are entitled to certain rights – the first of which they exercised today by voting. This was a touchdown in every way, and we celebrate today with athletes across the country who continue the struggle for basic fairness and justice.”

The ballots will not be counted on April 25th. The National Labor Relations Board in Washington granted Northwestern’s request for review of the Regional Director’s ruling., and the ballots will be impounded until the legal process concludes.

Huma stated, “We welcome the NLRB review so that college athletes’ employee status nationwide can be confirmed by the federal government.”

If the NLRB upholds the NLRB Regional Director’s March 26 ruling, the ballots will be counted. If CAPA wins the election, Northwestern has stated it will not bargain and that it will appeal the NLRB ruling to the federal courts. If CAPA loses the election, the legal process ends. But even if CAPA loses the election, the NLRB ruling that players are employees and have the right to choose union representation will be the law. Northwestern would not be able to challenge the ruling. In short, while the players’ vote is historic, the NLRB’s ruling on college athletes’ employee status is most important.

April 25 is another step in allowing the voices of college athletes to be heard, and this is a major victory for college athletes whatever the outcome of the vote.


Learn more at
Follow CAPA on Twitter @CAPAssociation                  

Media Request Line: (866) 311-1889

Email Updates