Sports history was made Friday, but it did not occur in a ballpark, stadium or arena.
Scholarship athletes on the Northwestern University football team participated in a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned election to determine whether they will unionize.
Whatever the outcome, the election is a significant step toward what should be a logical and fair conclusion: Top-tier college athletes should be better compensated for the riches they help bring to their institutions.
Make no mistake: Friday’s election might be more symbolic than sweeping. The immediate question is limited to scholarship athletes only — and football players at that — at private institutions only. But it could be only a matter of time before the issue expands to other sports and public universities.
Yes, star athletes do have their tuition and room and board covered. As they should. But, even though scholarships represent tens of thousands of dollars, they should get more. They should receive more consideration in terms of the demands on their time, safety, medical care and team rules. Considering their pivotal role in athletic department revenues, that’s the least their schools can do.
It’s long past time to drop the pretense that “student-athletes” at big-time programs are amateurs who should not be “sullied” by receiving fair compensation for what they help bring in to their institutions.