Union debate: it’s not Colter vs Fitz, or NU vs NU, it’s labor vs NCAA

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You don’t have to be pro NU and at the same time anti-Kain Colter. Likewise with Pat Fitzgerald. You don’t have to pick Fitz or Colter. Or Colter, but not NU. Or NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips, and then be against Kain. Or be with NU but against the movement for change and social justice.  There is room for nuance; there are grey areas to stand in.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of the local Chicago media is to simplistic and narrow-minded to understand this.

There’s been a few people doing some good work here (Rick Telander, Rohan Nadkari, Danny Ecker, at times Kevin Trahan has had some solid analysis, Josh Waifish did something long overdue, calling for civility in this discussion), but most newspaper columns read entirely as if a Sports Information Department professional ghost wrote them. I’ve seen stuff on the internet, on high authority, credible sites no less, that is so terrible you would think NCAA President Mark Emmert had ghost written it for the blogger.

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It’s not just that these guys are lining up to the be top shill for the administration; it’s that they’re doing with blind adherence to one side, and not even considering the other. Look at the no-win situation Pat Fitzgerald is in. He’s been vocal for about being against the union. He also has to walk a fine line. He has a right to express his opinion, but he can’t tamper with the collective bargaining rights of his employees. He, or anybody else for that matter, can use the fradulent term “student-athletes” all they want, but as of now the NU football players are employees by legal designation; until someone rules otherwise.

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Fitzgerald has a right to stand up for what he believes in, but he also has to tread carefully, so as to not come off as being legally found to be union busting, or tampering, or intimidating. Here’s the highlights of what he’s said:

“I’m proud of our guys for standing up. From day one, I’ve been outspoken about positive change, it’s well documented. Our guys know that, and we’ll work through it.”

Look at that- nuance! Being against the union but in favor of change. You see, you can have a multi-faceted view of this issue. It’s not all dealing in absolutes.

Fitzgerald also referred to himself as an “educator,” not an “employer” and that this is not “what I signed up to be.”

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While I do feel that Fitz is in a tough spot, and it’s not an enviable place to be, let’s remember why he gets paid the big bucks. Fitzgerald is the school’s highest-paid employee, with a salary of $2.2 million per year. He is the first sports coach to ever be the highest-paid employee in school history. Another fact is that Fitzgerald received a $2.5 million loan from the school upon signing his last contract.

Any job that is as high-paying as Fitzgerald’s comes with high responsibility and tough decisions to be made. That’s the trade off. So don’t feel all that bad for him. I’ve told you Fitz’s stance on the April 25th union vote, here’s Kain Colter’s statement:

Even if the NU football team votes against unionizing on April 25th, they’re still legally employees. But the important thing to remember here is that this isn’t about NU vs NU, even if it actually began that way in a local NLRB court room. The local media covered this angle, and then stubbornly remained obsessed with it.

However, that’s a fallacy. This is an NCAA issue. It’s about unpaid and exploited labor versus a “non-profit” that makes $11 billion dollars off March Madness TV rights alone.

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I don’t recommend reducing an issue this complicated to good guys vs bad guys, but if you must….NCAA President Mark Emmert is the perfect person to wear the black hat. The college kids not getting paid while putting in 50-60 weeks of labor are the white hats.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks is a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, who’s been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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