College athletes petitioned for the first time to be represented by a labor union on Tuesday, in order to receive the rights and benefits afforded to regular workers.
ESPN reports that Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for Northwestern University football players. “This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table,” said Huma, ESPN reports. “Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections.”
Huma told ESPN that the idea to seek recognition as a labor union by the NLRB began when Kain Colter, the Northwestern University quarterback approached him last spring about improving playing conditions for athletes.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is opposed to the move. In a statement released today, the association says that the athletes play sports on their own free will, and are not employed by colleges or the NCAA. They write:
This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.