Vote’s In…Now What?
Northwestern is amidst a historic battle in which Kain Colter and CAPA (College Athletes Players Association) filed a suit for the right to be regarded as employees and be considered a union. For more background information, check out a previous update here.
On April 25th, Northwestern players filed into Welsh-Ryan Arena to submit their vote on whether or not they want to unionize, with media standing by their designated curb trying to get any opinion they could squeeze. Many joked that they for as big of a deal as the vote was, it was silly to be there- the most they got from any current players was a “no comment”.
Several players stated they were fairly certain the vote would be an overwhelming “no”, based on their own opinions and what they know about their teammates. However, the public, and players for that matter, may never know which way the vote ended up going.
The National Labor Relations Board in Washington D.C. has taken over the Northwestern unionization case and will review the regional board of Chicago’s decision to allow Northwestern football players to unionize. For this reason, the vote will be locked up and only used if necessary, creating much uncertainty around the program.
Northwestern received much national attention and scrutiny for the union decision, which was amplified once head coach Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern administrators were allowed to share their opinions of the union with the players. Many portrayed Fitzgerald as the “bad guy”, who was threatening and coercing his players to vote “no”. The story received national attention, with multiple media outlets painting a picture of an arrogant, tyrannical coaching staff and administration. In reality, Fitzgerald was encouraging his players to “inform and educate” themselves, in hopes of making them realize that Northwestern, with his help, does everything to make the student-athlete experience one of the best in the country- without the help of a union.
People were also concerned if the impending decision would affect the team dynamics, especially with several notable players voicing their opinions to the public. It is no secret that all teams have cliques, but with an issue of this magnitude, divided opinions could prove to be catastrophic. Would players feel a certain loyalty to their former quarterback in Colter, or would they feel comfortable taking their own stance? Would this divided opinion affect the way the team operates as a unit, and in turn, affect the upcoming season success?
Along the same lines, questions are lingering about what happens to the team now. Do they sit around and wait until a final decision is reached? Are they in limbo until they know which way the vote went? Will new leaders step up and make them a cohesive group once again?
There is no way of knowing the exact answers to the above questions. This being said, the team, Fitz, and Northwestern are anxiously anticipating the upcoming season, especially now that spring practice is in the books. Players are engaged in rigorous workouts throughout the week, and will continue this schedule over the summer until training camp in Kenosha at the beginning of August. Players have stated they are excited for the attention to be shifted to simply caring about the game of football again. They are adamant that the team chemistry is completely unaffected- regardless of how they voted and they all maintain the goal of winning the 2014 Big Ten Championship.
With classes winding down and summer approaching, the ‘Cats can start on their path to season without national scrutiny now that the vote has occurred. The focus can go back to exciting elements of preseason, like position battles and speculating which true freshmen will play (check out the projected depth chart here). The next four months will be back to the grind, with all energy going towards improving upon last season’s disappointments and beating a tough Cal team in the 2014 season home opener on August 30th.
As Fitz would say, Go ‘Cats.