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Apr 04, 2014 11:33 AM EDT

Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma Take to Capitol Hill to Discuss College Sports Unionization With D.C. Lawmakers


Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma brought their case to unionize in college sports to Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday ahead of an appeal soon to arrive at the National Labor Rights Board's (NLRB) D.C. office.

The NLRB's ruling to allow the Northwestern University football team to form a union is still fresh and the school is planning to formally appeal it. According to Inside Higher Ed, Huma and Colter, co-founders of the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) wanted to personally state their case to D.C. lawmakers.

"The last thing we want to see is the NCAA come up here and use their lobbying power to change the laws," Huma told reporters Thursday at the Aspen Institute.

Conversely, that is what Huma and Colter, Northwestern's former quarterback, did by spending two days in private hearings. Ideally, they want any college athlete under a scholarship to be considered an employee with the right to unionize and collectively bargain for labor rights. Some on Capitol Hill already agree while some do not.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has previously voiced his support, as does Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the Associated Press reported.

"College athletes dedicate the same hours to their support as full-time employees and deserve the same protections as any other worker," Brown said in a statement.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) does not feel the same way.

"Imagine a university's basketball players striking before a Sweet Sixteen game demanding shorter practices, bigger dorm rooms, better food, and no classes before 11 a.m.," he said in a statement after the NLRB decision. "This is an absurd decision that will destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it."

Colter reportedly cited the Grambling State University football team that refused to play multiple games last fall due to poor equipment, facility conditions and a perceived lack of interest the team's success and well being. He said players already demonstrated they are willing to organize although a CAPA union would not condone strikes.

"We already have the leverage," he said. "We need to negotiate, we don't need to strike.

"At the end of the day, you need leverage, and that's just what it keeps boiling down to... promoting a student-athlete to talk in their meetings is not the same thing."

The NCAA recently announced it will allow each Division I team to have a student-athlete representative, but Colter and Huma are not impressed. They know their mission is most likely a long one, but they want to benefit future college athletes.

"Obviously, our vision is that college athletes across the nation will have the opportunity to decide whether they want the ability to collectively bargain," Huma said. "I think at the end of the day, we will come to a point where we can create a critical mass."

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