Bloomberg News

College Athletes Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Form a Union, Poll Says

April 25, 2014

Sixty percent of Americans said college athletes shouldn’t be able to form a labor union, according to a poll that concluded last night, a day before Northwestern University scholarship football players conducted a landmark vote on whether to unionize.

Thirty-four percent of 628 respondents across the U.S. said that college athletes should be able to form a union, and 7 percent said they didn’t know, according to the Seton Hall University poll.

The National Labor Relations Board said yesterday it would review a regional director’s ruling that defined football players at the Evanston, Illinois, private school as employees, making them eligible to unionize. Though the election for the 76 scholarship athletes is being held today, the ballots won’t be counted until the NLRB process is completed. A majority of votes cast would be needed for the union to succeed.

A successful effort to unionize has the potential to change the landscape college athletics, a business whose revenue includes more than $31 billion in guaranteed broadcast contracts involving the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the five most powerful conferences.

The poll, conducted by the South Orange, New Jersey, school, found that 29 percent of people think college football players should be considered employees, while 64 percent felt they should be considered students who play sports voluntarily.

A Seton Hall poll last month found that two-thirds of respondents felt that college athletes shouldn’t receive benefits such as salaries and post-graduate medical coverage.

If they eventually do earn salaries, they shouldn’t receive scholarships, 61 percent of respondents said in the most recent poll, while 33 percent said they should continue to receive scholarships.

The telephone poll, conducted from April 22-24 by the Sharkey Institute, has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at Dex McLuskey

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