Student-athlete union is a disservice to academia

Student-athlete union is a disservice to academia

Dewey Mullis

Editor’s note: The following is the counter-point in a point/counter-point on whether or not student-athletes should be allowed to unionize. Read the point here.

The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling this week in favor of Northwestern University’s football team seeking the right to form a union, according to Bloomberg.

The ruling issued that football players were employees of the university.

Historically speaking, the ability for employees to unionize has been influential and, for the most part, had a positive influence on the work environment we have today. We can thank unions for the 40-hour workweek, safer working conditions and a more complete and secure compensation system.

But what happens when student-athletes want to unionize? We could see the establishment of an elite class within the academic institutions that favors athleticism over education.

Let’s begin with the term student-athlete. In order to play football or any other sport at a college or university, you must also be working toward an education. Therefore, it is to be expected that one is a student first and an athlete second.

There are many students pulling double duty. Many students supplement their academic resume with research endeavors, inventing, designing and promoting products, publications and other activities that often go seemingly unnoticed or uncompensated for but still bring positive publicity to the institution’s reputation.

As for the compensation aspect of the union’s request, I don’t feel that it is appropriate for athletes to receive payment when many are already receiving a full-ride. I think it is great when anybody has the opportunity to receive funding for their education, but when is enough, enough?

According to, NCAA D1 FBS football programs get 85 scholarships, all of which are full-rides. That is roughly 83 percent of an average NCAA D1 football team.

And according to CBS, less than half of 1 percent of all non-athletes enrolled in a four-year public or private institution receive, by means of financial aid, grant or scholarship, a full ride. In other words, the percentage of college athletes on a full scholarship are astounding compared to the percentage of non-athletes on a full scholarship.

Still not enough compensation? Before universities pay their scholarship athletes, there needs to be more action to reduce the already expensive financial burden on non-athletes as well.

When graduation day rolls around, only 1 percent of college athletes will go pro, according to the New York Times. The other 99 percent will have to rely on their education, just like all non-athletes attending academic institutions.

All of this boils down to the concern that allowing athletes to form unions would lead to establishing an undue biased toward athletes and away from the educational purposes of an academic institution.

At the end of the seasons, athletes are students just like all non-athletes. They have busy schedules, difficult classes and a university to represent, but does it warrant the establishment of a formal union?

I cannot say that it does.

Dewey Mullis, a junior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.