Student Athletes—Students or Employees?


By: Dr. Lynn Reaser

A legal and political debate is raging on whether football athletes at Northwestern University should be regarded as employees and able to form a union.  The outcome of this debate could have profound implications not only for college sports but also for higher education in general.

Northwestern University Football PictureThe drive to treat college players as employees is wrong footed.  Student athletes are students first and athletes second.  These individuals receive their tuition, housing, meals, preferential enrollment for classes, tutoring, and other benefits.  Their showcasing builds a brand name that they can capitalize on in their future athletic careers or in other professional endeavors.  Turning student athletes into employees would further tilt colleges and universities towards becoming athletic enterprises rather than institutions of higher learning.  Other students would bear the greater costs of athlete compensation on top of already high tuition and rising student debt.

This is a path we should not follow.

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One response to “Student Athletes—Students or Employees?

  1. The universities with big time and money sports are already corrupted with the coaches being the highest paid staff members. The benefits that the players receive often does not include a quality education which might not matter much if they make the pros, but the vast majority don’t make the pros. Also all of the benefits are taken away if they get injured so some sort of workman’s compensation seems reasonable. I think that bringing some honest evaluation to this whole sports enterprise is a good idea and the place to start is to recognize publically that these sports programs are big business with employees that are doing dangerous work and subject to injury that should be allowed to unionize. It is far too late to consider these programs to be a mere extracurricular activity and purely amateur.

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