Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter wore "APU" wristbands against Maine in quiet protest. (John Gress/Getty Images)
Northwestern University football players -- led by former quarterback Kain Colter -- reportedly have signed union cards in their attempt to form a labor union for college athletes.
ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reports Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of an undisclosed number of Northwestern players to the National Labor Relations Board.
The NCPA also filed union cards signed by the players, according to the report.
Huma told "Outside The Lines" that the move to unionize players at Northwestern started with quarterback Kain Colter, who reached out to him last spring and asked for help in giving athletes representation in their effort to improve the conditions under which they play NCAA sports. Colter became a leading voice in regular NCPA-organized conference calls among players from around the country.
After the ESPN report was released, Colter spoke with the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein:
“A lot of people will think this is all about money; it’s not,” Colter said. “We’re asking for a seat at the table to get our voice heard.”
Regarding the prospects of unionizing, Colter said: “Everything now is in the hands of the lawyers. We’re not expecting a decision to be made right away. It might take a year or two or go all the way to the Supreme Court.”
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Donald Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer, responded to the news in a statement:
This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.
Many student athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation. There is no employment relationship between the NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.
Student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes.
Colter wore black #APU (All Players United) black wristbands in the Wildcats' Sept. 21 game against Maine. He was joined by about 10 teammates as well as players from Georgia and Georgia Tech and four other teams as part of an unannounced protest, according to the NCPA.
The NFL Players Association supports the efforts of the NCPA, according to a statement to Pro Football Talk.
“Resolved, that the NFLPA pledges its support to the National Collegiate Players Association (NCPA) and its pursuit of basic rights and protections for future NFLPA members."