NFLPA director offers support for Northwestern players' union efforts

NFL Players Assn. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has spoken out in support of the ruling allowing Northwestern football players to unionize, saying it has nothing to do with college athletes looking for a paycheck.

"In the more than 100 years since the NCAA was founded, it has not allowed athletes to have a seat at the table to discuss serious issues and therefore has done little to address full medical coverage for injuries sustained, limitations on practice time, scholarship shortfalls and rules to make promised education a reality," Smith wrote in an op-ed piece published Tuesday night by The Huffington Post.

"These are the real issues for Northwestern's 'student athletes,' not the classic bait-and-switch argument that recent columns by university presidents and NCAA officials made regarding whether or not college athletes should get paid. These claims, recently published by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal with no rebuttals whatsoever, are not true."

Late last month, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board classified the Northwestern football players as employees who have the right to form a union. Northwestern has said it will appeal the decision.

"Our union of professional football players stands firmly behind anyone who demands to be heard as a team," Smith wrote. "Every NFL player -- past, present, and future -- owes a debt of gratitude to our founders ... . Our collective bargaining agreement today includes better pensions and benefits, safer practices, and injury protections because they fought for and won the ability to bargain and fight as one team."

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott criticized the NLRB ruling in an op-ed piece for USA Today, expressing concerns about the effect it would have on “nonrevenue” sports as well as ensuring that the athletes remain students.

The presidents of Delaware, Michigan State and Wake Forest universities have also come out against the ruling in op-ed pieces published by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

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