Unions are, by nature, controversial. Anyone that’s worked at a company with the option to unionize has seen ads on both sides – high dues seem like an unfair and unnecessary cost, but organizing brings higher wages, better protections and workers rights.
All major professional sports leagues have their own union. The MLBPA just finished negotiations with league ownership, and last offseason marked a historic collective bargaining agreement for the NFL. But, what about amateur athletics?
It doesn’t seem to make sense at first, as “amateur” and “workers rights” don’t often align. But we need to face the facts – CFB athletes are no longer amateur athletes. With the advent of NIL deals, the capability for athletes to make real money is available – and the opportunity for them to get really screwed by team and corporate interests.
A “CFBPA” exists, but based on their website, it looks like it’s a private upstart with little industry backing.
Here are the reasons CFB needs a real union:
Protect players from predatory NIL agreements
Yes, NIL deals were founded to allow players to benefit, but anytime contract law comes into play, shady characters will come about. Students need real protections from these that can be strengthened with a players union.
Collective Bargaining for Future Salary and Benefits
If you haven’t seen the writing on the wall, wipe off your glasses. One way or another, players will receive salary of some kind in the next decade or two. Setting up a union in advance of this allows players to negotiate for a better deal with real power. Even if player payment is through more back door avenues like NIL, the players will be on the short end of the stick if they don’t have organizing power.
Schools say they’re committed to player safety, as does the NFL. But, most of the NFL’s safety improvements have come from pressure from ten players organization. If CFB players had a similar agreement, they’d have much more strength to negotiate for league wide protections like the NFL has implemented to reduce concussions.
There are many other improvements that don’t fit under these general categories. For example, the NFLPA has a program that allows any player to get covered transit to reduce DUI incidents. Similar programs could protect young players – both retaining them in play by preventing punishable incidents and also improving their lives.
Obviously some roadblocks exist. Anything involving the NCAA is a negotiating nightmare, and the conference structure as well as individual schools and teams would mean multiple different negotiations having to occur vs. a single ownership body. Working with schools is also difficult because many are government institutions. That being said, these roadblocks are not complete barriers and often serve as excuses to prevent players from organizing.
Let us know what you think in the replies.