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College athletes seek union representation

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For the first time, college athletes have officially asked to be represented by a labor union.

A new group called the College Athletes Players Assn. has petitioned the National Labor Relations Board, saying the athletes deserve a say in the rules that govern their sports.

The NCAA currently presides over the vast majority of college sports, and college football and men's basketball annually produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Kain Colter, a former Northwestern quarterback who is helping to spearhead the movement, told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday that his main interest has nothing to do with pushing for college athletes to get paid.

"A lot of people will think this is all about money; it's not," he said. "We're asking for a seat at the table to get our voice heard."

Colter, who completed his eligibility last season, described the NCAA system as a "dictatorship ... college athletes don't have a voice."

Colter said at a news conference in Chicago that the CAPA would seek scholarship protection from schools and also payment for medical bills.

The CAPA's petition is being sponsored by the United Steelworkers Union, which is paying the legal fees. It was filed in Chicago on behalf of Northwestern football players by Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who is president of the National College Players Assn., an advocacy group for college athletes.

In order for the document to be filed, at least 30% of "employees" -- at least 27 Northwestern players in this case, according to the Tribune -- needed to be in favor of unionizing.

"This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table," Huma told ESPN.com.

Colter was the spokesman for the Northwestern players who signed cards seeking union protection. The others would not comment, according to the Tribune, though they issued a statement:

"We Northwestern football players are grateful for our opportunity to play football for a prestigious university and athletic program. However, just as other athletes who compete in multibillion-dollar industries have done, we must secure and maintain comprehensive protections by asserting the rights afforded to us under labor laws. We are not taking these measures out of any mistreatment from Northwestern. However, we recognize the need to eliminate unjust NCAA rules that create physical, academic, and financial hardships for college athletes across that nation.

"To remain silent while players are denied justice is to be complicit in inflicting injustice on future generations of college athletes. In waging our struggle, we will comply with all existing rules of Northwestern, the Big Ten [Conference] and the NCAA."

The NCAA made no immediate comment.

Tim Waters of the United Steelworkers, who also spoke at the news conference, said the key issue was whether college football players were employees. If they are deemed employees, they have the right to unionize.

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