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Student athletes given the right to unionize

CINCINNATI (Brad Underwood) -- The day of the student athlete may soon be over.

Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University are employees.  And, therefore, are entitled to a union.  It's a decision that could very well pave the way to paying college athletes.
It's a label that, for the moment, at Northwestern University is no longer correct.  In that labor ruling they're not considered student athletes but university employees.  The decision now clears the way for other private university teams to seek union formation.  It's a decision that a couple ball players at Xavier say is not only a good thing, but long overdue.

On the field, quarterback Kain Colter led the Northwestern Wildcats as a co-captain.  Wednesday, Colter and the recently established College Athletes Players Association won the right to form the nations first college athletes union.  Shortly after the decision, Colter took to Twitter saying this is a huge win for all college athletes.

Inside the O'Conner rec center at Xavier University, former Musketeer guard Brad Redford trains teens who hope one day to play ball in college.  Redford believes this decision is long overdue.

"I think it's a good thing, now instead of a debate where nothing is going to happen, now you put this in the hands of people that possible make a change," he tells us.

The petition by the Northwestern football players seeks better medical coverage, concussion testing and the possibility of being paid.  Academics are also mentioned.  Redford remembers how time consuming basketball was and that it often came first.

Redford said, "You do have that little debate in your mind, am I going to study for a test until one o'clock in the morning when I have a game against a top 25 team the next night?"

The ruling by the National Labor Relations Board reads the players meet criteria to qualify them as employees and thus can organize.  Tim Whelan played the past two seasons  for Xavier as a walk on. He didn't receive scholarship money.

"I don't think it's a terrible idea, having played two years it is a lot of time commitment.  I don't think a lot of people realize that.  I know being a walk on it was tough finding money for the social aspect of college, getting food, that kind of stuff," Whelan said.

But Whelan does believe it's a slippery slope, how much money would players make? Will it be spent properly? What will the regulations be?
Those questions don't yet have answers.

So what's next?

The Northwestern football team will now take a secret ballot vote on whether or not to form a union.  Only scholarship players can vote and a 30 percent of the vote is need to create the first ever union of collegiate athletes.

The NCAA released a statement saying it disagrees with the notion that student athletes are employees.  Northwestern University has also said it will appeal the decision.

Follow Brad Underwood on Twitter @BUnderwoodWKRC and LIKE him on Facebook




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