Northwestern football players take union vote

Written By BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media Posted: 04/25/2014, 12:30pm
Array Unidentified Northwestern football players stand outside McGaw Hall and near a polling place sign where voting is taking place on the student athlete union question Friday, April 25, 2014, in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern football players cast secret ballots Friday in an on-campus hall adjacent to their home stadium on whether to form the nation's first union for college athletes. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Northwestern University’s scholarship football players are voting today to determine whether they want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association, fronted by former quarterback Kain Colter.

The results of the vote will be impounded until the National Labor Relations Board in Washington affirms, overturns or modifies the Chicago NLRB regional director’s decision on March 26 that scholarship athletes are employees.

But even with that uncertainty looming, the area outside Ryan Field has become a scene as the historic vote takes place

Media is being kept away from the entrance to McGaw Hall where the voting is taking place. The first voting session went from 6-7:30 a.m., and the second was from 10 a.m. to noon.

In the midst of those timeframes, every move by current NU football players entering the building has been scrutinized.

Most importantly, everybody waiting is trying to figure out how the 76 scholarship players are voting.

“I don’t know. It seems like things are kind of leaning towards no,” said former walk-on Michael Odom, a sophomore who left the team this winter. “I think a lot of them have been successfully talked out of voting yes. I think it’s unfortunate.”

Odom said players have been “influenced by former players as well as the coaches and officials at the university” to vote against the unionization effort, something he said was unfortunate.

Odom said there weren’t any threats.

“But a lot of them are basically trying to communicate that by voting for the union that my teammates would be betraying Northwestern, betraying the football family essentially, which I think is pretty wrong,” Odom said.

While the players vote, life as usual has continued at Northwestern and Evanston. Occasional passersby on Ashland Ave. gawk at the media scene waiting for some word from the university about something.

If he’s around, Colter hasn’t been seen. His presence, however, is still felt in Evanston. The bookstore at the Norris University Center is selling a No. 2 Northwestern jersey.

It has no name on the back, but Colter was the most prominent recent player to wear the jersey number.

Meanwhile, lineman Kenton Playko walked by the assembled newsmedia. He didn’t comment but stopped and took a selife with some journalists and Ryan Field in the background.

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