After a two-plus week hiatus, spring practice resumed at Northwestern on Tuesday. To no surprise, the recent ruling by a National Labor Relations Board official that NU football players are employees with the right to vote to form a union was a big discussion point. Three current players – senior running backs Venric Mark and Treyvon Green and senior defensive tackle Chance Carter – were asked about the topic.
You can check out some of their comments in this write-up from the Chicago Tribune. The only player who expressed support for the union was Carter, who said, according to the Tribune, that he thought the decision handed down by Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the NLRB’s Chicago office, was “pretty cool.”
In news unrelated to the landmark NLRB decision that essentially sounded these two words on college sports amateurism's existence, Mark said he is three weeks ahead of schedule on his rehab after ankle surgery performed this winter. He said he didn’t know if some players realized “what they were getting into” when they signed union cards. Referring to outgoing quarterback Kain Colter, Mark called the unionization of NU football players, “his movement.”
“Guys did sign cards supporting Kain and what he's trying to do and his movement, but at the end of the day, as I stated, everything outside of our locker room is outside of our locker room," Mark said. "And so some guys signed, some guys didn't. I don't know if people kind of knew what they were going to get into, if they thought it was going to turn out the way it did.”
The next step in the process is an election among eligible NU football players on scholarship. Colter, who cannot vote, has said that an “overwhelming majority” of teammates filed union cards. The university, which has stated it will appeal Ohr’s decision, must file a “request for review” by the national board by April 9. Ohr has yet to set a date for the election, but the results will likely be impounded until after the national board reviews the case.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald, who testified against the College Athletes Players Association during a five-day hearing in March, tried to shift the focus back to football. Asked whether the ruling surprised Fitzgerald, the NU coach said, “I think the things that I’ve said are pretty clear, so as I move forward I’m coaching a football team and that’s my focus.”
(Here is a video of Mark's 11-plus-minute interview. h/t commenter Mark Wheaton)