It started last September as mere symbolism — Northwestern QB Kain Colter and other players wore "APU" for "All Players United" on their wristbands. Today, it became more than just three letters scribbled onto a wristband. From ESPN:
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB -- the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.
"This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table," said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, who created the NCPA as an advocacy group in 2001. "Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections."
Kain Colter was the lead voice in making this happen, according to Huma; the Northwestern signal-caller reached out last spring. Among their issues with the NCAA are non-guaranteed scholarships and the NCAA's concussion policy.
Does this mean a new age is immediately coming to all of Division-I football? Not entirely:
The NLRA governs only private enterprises and does [not] apply to public universities. As a private university, Northwestern University falls under its jurisdiction. Gerard said that based on labor law, any decision in favor of the players against Northwestern would apply to all private universities across the country in the FBS division. It would not apply to public universities, which are governed by state laws.
This will definitely make an interesting legal case for study, regardless of its outcome.
UPDATE (1:14 PM): An anonymous Northwestern player has taken to Reddit to clarify the thinking behind this move:
This isn't about getting paid. What it is about is protection. Many of us will have numerous injuries throughout our playing careers. A group of those players will continue to feel the effects of those injuries long after their playing days are over. The goal is to have some sort of medical protection if we need surgeries stemming from injuries sustained while playing for our university. Another goal is graduate school for those who were fortunate enough to play as a true Freshman. Most student-athletes get redshirted in their first year, and receive one year of grad school payed for in their fifth year of eligibility. We feel as though it is fair to ask for the same investment from the university all around. It isn't about getting an extra $200 a month for spending. We have our stipend, and if we budget correctly we are able to make it stretch for the month. Would it be nice to have some part of jersey sales or memorabilia sales? Absolutely. But that is not the goal as of right now.
Just wanted to add in that I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I have been given to not only play football, but to attend a world class university such as Northwestern. It is an opportunity millions dream of having. We are treated well at Northwestern, but unfortunately that is not the case at many other schools. Hopefully we can create a voice for the players and clean up these issues.
UPDATE (1:53 PM): As you can imagine, the NCAA doesn't agree with this attempt to unionize athletes. Its full response can be read HERE.