Northwestern University football players are attempting to join what's being called the first-ever college sports union, a move that signals a potential major shift in collegiate sports.
The creation of the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) was announced Tuesday after an "overwhelming majority" of Northwestern's team signed cards to apply for labor rights and representation by the union, according to a statement.
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter co-founded CAPA and serves on its Board of Directors with former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma, who founded the union, and former basketball player Luke Bonner.
"It's time to fight for justice," CAPA writes on its website. "Billions of dollars are flooding NCAA sports, yet players are often stuck with sports-related medical expenses, lose their scholarships due to injuries, and 'full' scholarships often aren't what they promised to be."
The group says the new union is necessary to "challenge the treatment of players under the current pay-for-play system for college athletes." It cites a court case in which the NCAA stated it has no legal duty to protect college athletes from injury.
Northwestern's players have filed with the National Labor Relations Board to secure CAPA representation.
The NCAA said the move undermines the purpose of college to get an education.
"Student-athletes are not employees," the NCAA said in a statement, "and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize."
Jim Phillips, Northwestern's vice president for athletics and recreation, noted the athletes involved with the movement said they aren't unhappy with the university and are focused on national issues.
"Northwestern believes that our student-athletes are not employees and collective bargaining is therefore not the appropriate method to address these concerns," Phillips said. "However, we agree that the health and academic issues being raised by our student-athletes and others are important ones that deserve further consideration."