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SBD/February 19, 2014/Colleges
Northwestern's Colter Testifies In NLRB Hearing, Says Football Kept Him From Academics
Published February 19, 2014
WORK OR PLAY? In N.Y., Ben Strauss writes NU lawyers yesterday "painted Colter as a football player who has benefited greatly from his educational experience, and argued that athletics and academics go hand-in-hand" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/19). In Chicago, Sandra Guy notes Colter "detailed restrictions that govern football players, such as being required to obtain their own medical insurance or to buy primary or secondary insurance from a company sanctioned by Northwestern; being unable to sign autographs except those requested by the university, and being careful what they post on Twitter, Facebook and other social media." Yesterday's hearing "was moved to the Dirksen Federal Building from the NLRB’s regional office to provide more space for the media and an audience of lawyers, students, university officials, season ticket-holders and others" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/19). ESPN.com's Lester Munson noted Colter "repeatedly used the words 'job' and 'paycheck' as he described the near total control football coaches had over him during four years at Northwestern." The hearing also featured a "surprising concession" from NU attorney Alex Barbour, as he conceded that the NLRB "could conclude that college athletes may be employees." Barbour said if the board decides that the players are employees, then they are "temporary employees." Munson noted temporary employees under U.S. labor law "are not permitted to form a union." This "was a remarkable suggestion and the first acknowledgement from the school that the players may have a chance to succeed" (ESPN.com, 2/18). In California, Mark Whicker writes under the header, "One Small Step Toward Giant Reform With NCAA" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/19).
BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL: In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes Colter yesterday "repeatedly attacked the heart" of NU's football program. Colter said that the program "steers its best and brightest into less challenging majors" so they have more time to focus on football. Colter: "We’re basically not allowed to schedule things that conflict with football practice. It shows we are brought in to play football … if you can, fit in the academics." Greenstein writes CAPA chose Colter because he is "bright and eloquent -- and eager for a fight" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/19). ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg wrote yesterday was a "day of heavy scrutiny" for NU football, a program that "prides itself -- and is viewed -- as doing things the right way." But it is "hard to buy Northwestern as ground zero for this movement." Colter "lost a lot of people with his Navy SEALs/football comparison." Rittenberg: "He lost me a lot earlier." Still, Colter is an "impressive spokesman who had the courage to speak out, even if he has damaged his relationship with the program" (ESPN.com, 2/18). In Chicago, Seth Gruen writes, "By slinging mud toward the university from which he will earn his degree," Colter "has gone about lobbying for the issue in the wrong way." Colter yesterday "went from being well-spoken to belligerently grandstanding." He "made some excellent points about the overwhelming amount of time he dedicated to football," but his "reckless accusations undermined those efforts." His assertion that NU football players "are limited in their majors and course selections is preposterous at a university that gives its student-athletes priority registration" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/19). Colter, when asked by CAPA attorney John Adam whether he thinks college athletes get a free ride, responded, "I absolutely hate when people use the term free ride. We earn everything we're given through blood, sweat and tears" (SI.com, 2/18).