College Athletes Look to Form Union

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter presented the plan for the College Athletes Players Association, which would push for medical coverage and demand that scholarships cover living expenses and tuition.

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Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter

David Banks/Getty Images

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter had strong words for the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate sports, during a news conference on Tuesday in which he called the group "a dictatorship" while unveiling a proposal for college athletes to unionize, issuing the latest blow in the growing national debate over whether college players should be compensated, the Associated Press reports.

Surrounded by leaders of the United Steelworkers Union, which has agreed to pay the legal bills for the effort, Colter presented his plan for the College Athletes Players Association, which would push for medical coverage and demand that scholarships, at minimum, cover all living expenses as well as tuition, AP reports. Currently, scholarship athletes, who are not allowed to work, come up thousands of dollars short each year.

"How can they call this amateur athletics when our jerseys are sold in stores and the money we generate turns coaches and commissioners into multimillionaires?" Colter asked.

"The current model represents a dictatorship," added Colter, who just finished his senior year with the Wildcats, AP reports. "We just want a seat at the table."

The NCAA strongly disagrees with Colter and insists that college athletes cannot be considered employees.

"Student-athletes are not employees," NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy told AP. "We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes."

He added: "This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education."

While Northwestern backed the NCAA's stance, they were pleased by the determination of their students' leadership in pursuit of a goal  about which they feel passionately.

"We agree that the health and academic issues being raised by our student-athletes and others are important ones that deserve further consideration," said Jim Phillips, Northwestern's vice president of athletics and recreation.

"Kain and our student-athletes have followed their beliefs with great passion and courage," Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald tweeted. "I'm incredibly proud of our young men! GO CATS!"

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