Kain Colter starts union movement

In a Sept. 21 game against Maine, Colter wore a black wristband with the hashtag "#APU" -- All Players United -- prominently scrawled in white marker as part of a quiet protest gesture. He was joined that day by about 10 teammates as well as players at  Georgia and  Georgia Tech. In all, players on seven teams in the five largest conferences displayed the #APU symbol, according to the NCPA.

Huma said he met with Northwestern players over the weekend on campus in Evanston, Ill., and took the next step in creating a collective voice for players. He said Colter introduced him to groups of players that Colter had talked with over the past couple of months about their interest in taking the unprecedented step of asking for union representation.

To have the NLRB consider a petition to be unionized, at least 30 percent of the members of a group serving an employer must sign union cards.

Huma declined to say how many Northwestern players signed cards other than the number was an "overwhelming majority." To get to 30 percent, at least 26 of the 85 scholarship players had to sign.

Colter told "Outside The Lines" on Tuesday morning that he met with Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald to share the news that the union cards had just been filed.

"It couldn't have gone any better," Colter said. "Obviously, he has employers he needs to think about. But he's understanding of what we did, that this is something we feel passionate about, and he wants to make the athletes' experience the best it can be.

"The team is excited. Their biggest worry was how the head coach was going to take it. It was a big relief for them to hear from me how he reacted."

The formal entity that would represent the players, if certified by the NLRB, is called the College Athletes Players Association. It was created by Huma, Colter and Luke Bonner, a former UMass basketball player and brother of NBA player Matt Bonner, with technical support from the United Steelworkers, who will not receive union dues from players, said Huma, who is registered as CAPA's president. (Huma's organization is not affiliated with another organization that uses the same CAPA acronym, the College Athletes Protection Association).

"When Ramogi first reached out to us years ago, we were like an overwhelming part of the population in that we figured athletes were lucky because they're getting an education," United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard said Tuesday. "But then we looked into it and realized it's a myth. Many don't get a true education and their scholarships aren't guaranteed."

Huma said CAPA's goals are the same as those of the NCPA. The group has pressed for better concussion and other medical protections, and for scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance.

Having already successfully advocated for the creation of multiyear scholarships, it now would like those scholarships to be guaranteed even if a player is no longer able to continue for injury or medical reasons. The group has also called for a trust fund that players could tap into after their NCAA eligibility expires to finish schooling or be rewarded for finishing schooling.

The NCPA has lobbied state legislatures, Congress and the NCAA on these issues over the years, and earlier this month hired airplanes to fly protest banners during the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl and at the NCAA Convention in San Diego.

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