The Government Just Opened The Door For College Football Unions

Calling student-athletes "employees" would change everything

Last month, when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that “student assistants who perform work at the direction of their university for which they are compensated” are, in fact, “statutory employees,” it was a breakthrough victory for graduate student employees at private universities, who now have the right to unionize and collectively bargain. But the board’s decision affording these rights to graduate assistants at Columbia University also excited another group of college students: athletes.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh shit,’” Kirsten Hextrum, a former national champion rower for the University of California, Berkeley, tells GOOD. “‘This is huge.’”

Hextrum, who currently is pursuing a Ph.D at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, knows as well as anyone the problems with the NCAA’s current student-athlete system. She has worked in the school’s Athletic Study Center as a tutor and academic advisor, and has devoted her graduate research to institutional conflicts within the student-athlete experience. She also has been a teaching assistant. Hextrum says graduate student employees are a good analogy for scholarshipped athletes.

“It’s similar to high-level athletics in that it’s this all-consuming thing,” Hextrum says. Both types of students take on required time-intensive work, to the university’s financial benefit, in order to attend school. The main difference, she says, is the level of institutional support. “I didn’t have an HR department as a student-athlete. There isn’t an infrastructure around that.“

Until August’s NLRB ruling, that infrastructure didn’t exist for graduate students at private universities either, leaving teaching and research assistants susceptible to unfair pay, inadequate healthcare, and other non-negotiable problems. The labor board had previously ruled in 2004 that graduate students can’t be considered employees because they “have a primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university.” Granting employee status would allegedly destroy the educational relationship.

That 2004 ruling, which rejected Brown University graduate students’ appeal to unionize, is the same legal basis used in arguments against student-athletes. When Northwestern University football players explored the idea of unionizing in 2014, the school used Brown’s definition of “employee” to argue that athletes on scholarship didn’t qualify. But the NLRB’s latest decision overrules that definition, arguing, “Statutory coverage is permitted by virtue of an employment relationship; it is not [blocked] by the existence of some other, additional relationship that the Act does not reach.”

In other words, the definition of “employee” presented in that “Act”—The Fair Labor Standards Act—is prevailing. Those who perform services for universities, under contract, in return for payment—regardless of whether they’re also receiving an education—are finally earning their legal rights. And after graduate students, the next logical benefactors are student-athletes, who also sign contracts (letters of intent) to perform services (sports) in exchange for payment (scholarships and stipends).

“I think that the recent Columbia decision puts the Northwestern issue back in play if the case is brought by Northwestern again, or another private college or university,” Adam Epstein, a sports law professor at Central Michigan University, told GOOD. Last year the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction in the Northwestern case.

Collective bargaining potentially opens up possibilities around several athlete-related issues, such as practice time, health care, and, yes, compensation. It also could stop schools from depriving educational opportunity to student-athletes.

“Football affected my grades more than being a teaching assistant,” Torin Dupper, who walked onto Northwestern’s team in 2010 and 2011, tells GOOD. Dupper, who currently is working on a chemistry Ph.D at the University of California, Irvine, wasn’t at Northwestern on an athletic scholarship but still experienced the requirements and difficulty in balance associated with intercollegiate athletics. “That’s because I cared about it more, but it was about the same time [commitment].”

Similar to how teaching assistants face pressure to work outside compensated “work hours”—for example, grading student papers—Dupper says that at Northwestern, football sometimes demanded an uncomfortable amount of time, including practices and training sessions that players knew weren’t mandatory, but they couldn’t miss. “We called them ‘optionory.’”

Kyle Roskamp, another chemistry Ph.D. candidate at UC Irvine, who played football for Pomona-Pitzer, tells GOOD that “playing sports [as an undergraduate] was easily more time consuming” than TA’ing as a graduate student, although “having the opportunity to play never felt like a burden.” But even at the Division III level, Roskamp says, football “almost effectively killed any chances of doing research in the fall.”

Student-athletes-turned-graduate-students remain a privileged minority, and these constraints on academic access and success are just one part of the amateurism problem. The point is useful in this context. In determining the legal status of student employees, the NLRB has stopped arguing that campus labor inherently boosts a student’s educational experience. In turn, we should treat that labor like normal work.

Hextrum believes the time is ripe. “This movement keeps continuing for student-athletes to unionize, which it should,” she says. “And I think they will.”


"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

"The world is your waterbed," Smithfly says on its site. But the big difference is that no one has ever had to worry about falling asleep and then drowning on their waterbed.

RELATED: A ridiculous dad transformed Billie Eilish's 'Bad Guy' into a 3-minute long musical dad joke

While it is possible that one could wade into the water, unzip the tent, have a pleasant slumber, and wake up in the morning feeling safe and refreshed, there are countless things that could go terribly wrong.

The tent could float down the river and you wake up in the middle of nowhere.

You could have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

This guy.

It could spring a leak and you could drown while wrapped up in eight feet of heavy nylon.

A strong current could tip the tent-boat over.

There isn't any way to steer the darn thing.

This guy.

Mashable shared a charming video of the tent on Twitter and it was greeted with a chorus of people sharing the many ways one could die while staying the night in the Shoal Tent.

Oh yeah, it's expensive, too.

Even though the general public seems to think the Shoal Tent is a terrible idea, according to the Smithfly's website, it's currently sold out due to "popular demand" and it will be "available in 6-8 weeks." Oh, and did we mention it costs $1,999?

via zoezimmm / Imgur

There are few more perniciously dangerous conspiracy theories being shared online than the idea that vaccines cause autism.

This has led to a decline in Americans vaccinating their children, resulting in a massive increase in measles. This year has already seen over 1,200 cases of measles, a disease that was eradicated in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.

A 2015 Pew Research study found that 83% of Americans think the measles vaccine is safe, while 9% think it's not. Another 7% are not sure. But when you look at the polls that include parents of minors, the numbers get worse, 13% believe that the measles vaccine is unsafe.

There is zero truth to the idea that vaccines cause autism. In fact, a recent study of over 650,000 children found there was no link whatsoever.

RELATED: A new study of over 650,000 children finds — once again — that vaccines don't cause autism

A great example of the lack of critical thinking shown by anti-vaxxers was a recent exchange on Facebook shared to Imgur by zoezimmm.

A parent named Kenleigh at a school in New Mexico shared a photo of a sign at reads: "Children will not be enrolled unless an immunization record is presented and immunizations are up-to-date."

This angered a Facebook user who went on a senseless tirade against vaccinations.

"That's fine, I'll just homeschool my kids," she wrote. At least they won't have to worry about getting shot up in school or being bullied, or being beat up / raped by the teachers!"

To defend her anti-vaccination argument, she used a factually incorrect claim that Amish people don't vaccinate their children. She also incorrectly claimed that the MMR vaccine is ineffective and used anecdotal evidence from her and her father to claim that vaccinations are unnecessary.

She also argued that "every human in the world is entitled to their own opinion." Which is true, but doesn't mean that wildly incorrect assumptions about health should be tolerated.

She concluded her argument with a point that proves she doesn't care about facts: "It doesn't matter what you say is not going to change my mind."

RELATED: 12 medical professionals shared their most memorable anti-vaxxer stories and you won't stop face-palming

While the anti-vaxxer was incorrect in her points, it must also be pointed out that some of the people who argued with her on Facebook were rude. That should never be tolerated in this type of discourse, but unfortunately, that's the world of social media.

Here's the entire exchange:

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

The post received a ton of responses on imgur. Here are just a few:

"'In my opinion...' 'I believe...' That's not how facts work."

"You're entitled to your opinion. And everyone else is entitled to call you a dumbass."

"'What I do with my children is no concern to you at all.' Most of the time, true. When your kid might give mine polio, not true."

"If my child can't bring peanut butter, your child shouldn't bring preventable diseases."

It's important to call out people who spread dangerous views, especially how they pertain to health, on social media. But people should do so with respect and civility.


He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
via Imgur

Every few years there's something that goes mega viral because people can't decide what it is.

There was the famous "is it blue and black, or white and gold" dress?

There was the audio recording that said either "yanny" or "Laurel."

Keep Reading Show less

Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less