EVANSTON, Ill. — The imminent vote by scholarship football players at Northwestern on whether to certify a union has students, professors and athletes in other sports choosing sides.
When a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled last month that the players were employees and therefore eligible to form a union, it sent shock waves through higher education and college athletics that hit hardest here at Northwestern, a university in the Chicago suburbs that is known more for its academics than its athletics.
“What it means for the athletic department and the greater economics of the school, I don’t think anyone knows exactly,” said Laura Beth Nielsen, a Northwestern professor of sociology and legal studies. “But no one is ambivalent.”
The varied viewpoints were on display at a meeting on Wednesday night organized by former Northwestern football players at a civic center here. Several dozen alumni attended, most of them former football players.
The meeting was led by Kevin Brown and Alex Moyer, two Northwestern players from the 1980s who said they were concerned about pressure being put on players. Brown contended that players on the team were being called by alumni and urged to vote against the union.
“We want the facts to be the facts,” said Brown, who said he did not have a stance on...
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