Northwestern University football players vote on union

Quarterback Trevor Siemian of the Northwestern Wildcats hands the ball to running back Treyvon...

Quarterback Trevor Siemian of the Northwestern Wildcats hands the ball to running back Treyvon Green during their game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 2, 2013. (Eric Francis/Getty Images/AFP)

The Sports Xchange

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

Northwestern University football players cast secret ballots Friday on whether to unionize, an unprecedented event in collegiate athletics.

It may take several weeks, months or even years before the results are known. The ballot boxes will be sealed as the university legally appeals the team's unionization effort.

The National Labor Relations Board agreed Thursday to allow Northwestern's appeal of a regional director's March ruling that players are employees and can form a union.

The ballots will be sealed until the appeal process is finalized. A long court battled could ensue after that.

Supporters say unionizing would help college athletes receive improved compensation and medical care for injuries, among other benefits.

"You got to give the people what they want!" one player shouted at reporters, who were forced to keep a distance during the voting, according the Associated Press.

The NLRB ruling only applies to private universities but it was viewed as a step toward the end of traditional student athletics. The NCAA, Northwestern and many college athletic departments, nationally, have been critical of the unionization effort.

Northwestern's 76 football players under scholarship were eligible to vote.

Ramogi Huma is president of the College Athletes Players Association, which would represent players if unionization is approved.

Northwestern hopes that unionizing will not lead to player strikes. It also fears that it could create an "us-versus-them" mentality between eligible scholarship athletes and non-union walk-ons and coaches.

Huma disputed the school's claims.

"No one is taking about striking," he said. "They are trying to rattle players."

The players' union drive was started by quarterback Kain Colter in January.

While several players have expressed support for the union, others, including new starting quarterback Trevor Siemian, have said they planned to vote against it.

"I'll say there's a significant number of guys on the team who feel the same as me," he said earlier this month.

Other players who agree with Siemian have said the issues are not clear cut enough to justify supporting it and just want to focus on football.


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