College Sports Forum

College Sports Forum

College sports discussion.

Just 25% favor allowing college athletes to unionize

AndyVance's picture
April 1, 2014 at 12:57pm

Given the intense discussion sparked by Nicholas' article on paternalism in college athletics earlier this week, I almost hesitated to post this. But, for your information and further discussion on the subject, here goes.

Rasmussen Reports, one of the nation's most respected opinion polling firms, reported this week that just 25% of American adults favor allowing college athletes to unionize, although a full 22% are as yet undecided on the controversial issue.

Most Americans don’t think college athletes should be allowed to unionize but expect the fight to spread to other colleges and universities. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 25% of American Adults favor allowing college athletes to form unions. Fifty-three percent (53%) are opposed. Twenty-two percent (22%) are undecided.

Rasmussen polled 1,000 American adults March 27-28; the margin of sampling errors was +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

To reiterate, the ruling by the National Labor Relations Board is but the first step in what will likely be a lengthy and fractious process. Rasmussen's question focused on the question of unionizing, not the separate but related issue of if or how athletes in revenue sports should be compensated for their "work" on the field.

(I put the word "work" in quotation marks to denote that the use of that term in and of itself is related to the controversy, as some would argue that these athletes are in fact playing a game for which they are already "compensated" handsomely in the form of tuition, room and board, tutoring, strength and nutrition coaching, etc. In other words, it's a pretty heavy issue with very few simple answers.)

Show All Comments

Buckeye Knight's picture

I don't know what the answer is, but I hope it's the end of the NCAA soon.  The NCAA no longer stands for what it's declared mission is, no longer applies the rules evenly, and is one of the most haphazard and hypocritical organizations in America today.  I think if the NCAA was more open to change, more consistent in its rulings, and had great leadership (Mark Emmert is TERRIBLE), the organization could have found a way to make things work.  As it stands now, I hope the NCAA burns to the ground, as long as whatever system replaces it applies whatever rules are made in a fair manner.

brandonbauer87's picture

I couldn't disagree more. The NCAA has it's shortcomings, but 95% of what they do is invisible the the general public. They need to review the way some things are done, but as a whole I think they serve a great need beyond what's written in the headlines. 

+3 HS
Buckeye Knight's picture

I believe the NCAA used to be for the STUDENT-athlete in many ways.  But modern day, 2014?  I just don't see it, their actions speak much louder than their words.  And the way they come in and carpet bomb an entire program for the minor faults of a few people or an individual is unacceptable.

Jack Fu's picture

Actually the NCAA invented the term "student-athlete" in the 1950s to avoid having to pay worker's comp claims for injured football players.

+2 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

In many cases, there's no other punishment. You can't suspend a player after he leaves school. It's team sports, the team shares success and punishment. I guess you never had a coach make your whole team run laps when one person screwed up. It's not always fair, but there isn't a viable solution. 


-1 HS
rdubs's picture

I wouldn't be surprised if that reflects the percentage that favors allowing unions more generally.  It would be more telling to ask people how strongly do you support unionization generally and then find out how they feel about unions in this specific case.

AndyVance's picture

Absolutely a good question. I'm curious if there is a disconnect between the general feelings of the populace toward organized labor and the concept of student athletes unionizing, if there is one, and likewise if there is a difference in the percentage favoring unionization of players and the percentage favoring some sort of compensation for players. There are a lot of different layers to that onion in terms of public opinion.

+1 HS
teddyballgame's picture

Meh.  I don't really value the public sentiment all that much.  Most people are afraid of change, and this current model has been working out pretty well for them as far as they're concerned.  Fans have been comfortably sitting on their couch and growing to feel pretty entitled to this kind of entertainment for a long time now.  Why would I expect them to support something that they probably think could jeopardize that?  I doubt they've studied this issue much. 

I don't have an account there, but if you do, then can you see the results for the other questions as well? 

1* This week, a federal labor relations board ruled that football players at Northwestern University are school employees and therefore can unionize. Do you favor or oppose allowing college athletes to unionize?

2*  How likely is it that sports teams at other colleges and universities will seek to unionize – Very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely or not at all likely

3*  If colleges have to enter in collective bargaining with student athletes, will that be good or bad for college athletics? Or will it have no impact?

4*  If college athletes are employees who can unionize, should any scholarships they receive be considered taxable income?

5* Many schools earn sizable amounts of money as a result of their athletic programs. Should student athletes be paid a share of this money?

6*  Should colleges and universities be required to make sure student athletes graduate with a degree?

7* Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, known most familiarly as the NCAA?  

8*  How would you rate the job the NCAA does policing college athletics – excellent, good, fair or poor?

9*  Some big-time college sports programs make a lot of money for their schools. When it comes to recruiting top players, how many big-time programs break the rules on a regular basis?


+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

Alas, I do not have an account with Rasmussen - they just send me their press releases. Sorry... I would love to see the rest of those questions, too.

elitesmithie's picture

Maybe 75% of people realize how expensive a college degree is and that under 1% of these athletes would bring in more than that. What about the 3rd string guard? Or the womens fencing team? This has disaster written all over it. Yea Braxton brings in money but 99% of the student athletes don't.

+4 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

Student unionization is a foolish disastrous notion.  Increase the stipend, fine.  Anything else is ludicrous in this pay me now, I deserve to get a break,  everything generation. And yes, I have studied both sides of the issue AND I was a student athlete.

Go Bucks!

+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Well said Go1 I agree 100% - I have felt more strongly about this lately. 

+3 HS
Jack Fu's picture

Student unionization is a foolish disastrous notion.  Increase the stipend, fine.  Anything else is ludicrous...

Why should they be denied the basic rights that all other employees have?

And if you disagree that they are employees, why? Legally, an "employee" is a person who [1] is under contract of hire to [2] perform services for another, [3] subject to the employer's control, and [4] in return for payment. With regard to the Northwestern players, the NLRB found that [1] the letter of intent and the scholarship are a contract; [2] the 40-50 hours per week spent on football activities and the $235 million generated by NW football in the last ten years constituted services and benefits the university (i.e., the "employer") got out of the work; [3] the extensive rules Fitzgerald and the university made the players adhere to clearly constituted "employer control": and [4] the scholarship itself constitutes payment. Do you honestly disagree with any of those conclusions? If so, why?

They meet the standard to be called an "employee." Once they're employees, they are guaranteed the basic rights all employees have, included the possibility of unionization. Why is this "disastrous" or "ludicrous"?

-2 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

I disagree with your conclusions, and believe the NLRB is incorrect.  

(player likeness is a different can of worms, video games a new genre of stupid to be decided)

Nope. Not employee. Student, given free ride of education, chance to play a sport they love, with the opportunity to go pro, IF they become proficient enough. Stipend, essentially another category of aid, is fine.

I am employed, I have to work to make money to pay bills, I don't PLAY work. The company doesn't have to give me a share of the profits, unless I negotiate it.  Just because my fellow employee negotiates profit sharing, doesn't entitle me to profit sharing.  I'Il have to prove my worth, just to advance.  Still, no guarantees.

The goal of the profits from "football" in this case is the continued running of the sports programs and other programs it supports, facilities dedicated to said sports, their support staff, etc., and the continued ability to allow for future players to compete in said sports.  

The student is not forced to go to school, he can PLAY ball at school or face reality like the rest of us do and go to WORK. He can go into the job market like everyone else. 

Im done with this stupidity, it 5 am and Im not going to change your mind.  Frankly, I dont care anymore.

Go Bucks!

Jack Fu's picture

1. They're not my conclusions, they're the NLRB's. I asked what exactly you think is incorrect about them.

2. You addressed quite literally none of the elements for what constitutes an "employee." You just said you disagree, with no justification or analysis of the actual decision.

-3 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

1000 people surveyed that still have land lines? I didn't think that existed. Those polls are ridiculous.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

Brutus1972's picture

You'll know why when your electricity goes out.

+1 HS