Ex-Northwestern football player on union effort: ‘It’s time to give college athletes a voice’

OPINION - This is a student movement, and I am not too far removed from being college student. I commend the young brave men on the Northwestern Football team and their leader Kain Colter...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It takes a lot of courage to stand for something that you truly believe in.

The young men at Northwestern should be applauded. They have come to a majority agreement that certain by-laws, clauses, and policies within the NCAA are outdated.

Students throughout history have changed the world through organizations that have been formulated at universities and college campuses across America.

The current Northwestern football players are changing the world of sports.

This is the first step of many, but it’s a huge step. It’s like the confidence that you get on the field after your team scores on their first possession. This student movement to unionize will  better the conditions for big-time college athletes.

For the last five years I have taught and coached at the elementary and high school level.  Some of my students may one day participate in college athletics. The idea that they could be better protected physically, financially, and mentally during and after college — better than I was — inspires me.

One day, college athletes will have the ability like all other students in college to enter the free market. They will not be limited to the certain clauses that prohibit them to provide for their families – or even to fly home and see their families in the offseason.

Coaches, administrators, and even gamblers in Vegas collect millions yearly. Meanwhile, there are mothers who have only come to one single game during their son’s four-year career, because they cannot afford a plane ticket.

The public doesn’t know about these stories.

Additional compensation for athletes within their scholarships is necessary.

Opponents of the Northwestern movement to unionize may not agree with extended medical protection for injured athletes after college.

I was once one of the fastest teens in the state of Illinois. Because of injuries suffered on the football field at Northwestern, I am walking the rest of my life with two titanium rods in my legs. Even if I wanted to later in life, I cannot afford the surgery to remove them .

I fully support the goals under the College Athletes Players Association such as extended medical protection – the ability to have this support after an athlete’s playing days really resonates with me.

There may be some negativity regarding the ruling, but if it is executed the right way, it will benefit all parties involved in college athletics, including the fans. There are parents out there who have sons and nephews involved in big-time college football, and there are mothers to be and aunts, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, and grandparents.

There are thousands of businesses and workers who rely on those Saturdays from August to December. Their livelihood is invested in the entertainment provided by the young men who are wearing helmets and cleats. Let us not forget that we are all connected to this.

How can we continue to accept this old model of amateurism?

If college football wasn’t producing so much money, we would not be having this conversation. We are having this debate across America, because we know the NCAA has the power and the money to make this work.

This is a student movement, and I am not too far removed from being college student. I commend the young brave men on the Northwestern Football team and their leader Kain Colter.

This will be a game changer.

Jeff Yarbrough is a former wide-receiver at Northwestern University. He is  the founder of CTG Sports, a non-profit organization based in Chicago  dedicated to providing students with a high quality affordable sports curriculum. Visit CTG Sports at ctgsports.com

Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffyarbroughJr