Document shows Northwestern's anti-union responses to questions from players

FILE - In this April 1, 2014, file photo, Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald speaks at a news conference after his football team participated in an NCAA college spring football practice in Evanston, Ill. Fitzgerald sided with his university against the formation of a players union in his first public comments Saturday, April 1, repeating what he already told his team: "I believe it's in their best interests to vote no." (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Northwestern players have had the opportunity to ask the school questions about the ramifications of possible unionization and Northwestern has told players that if the team votes to unionize, they'd be "stuck" with it.

CBS Sports obtained a document verified by a Northwestern spokesperson that outlines the school's responses to various questions ranging from the coach-player relationships, media interaction and how a union would impact certain circumstances.

One player asked what would happen if he wanted to get out of the union if it was created. Northwestern's response said the team would be "stuck with the union for a minimum of one year, even if everyone changed their mind" and that "it is extremely difficult to get rid of a union once it is voted in."

According to the report, most of the answers appear to be directly from Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has been outspoken in his opposition to unionization. The school is currently appealing the decision by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board that said the players were employees of the school and had the opportunity to vote to create a union. The vote is set for April 25.

From CBS Sports:

"This is not what we wanted," a player says, according to the document. "How can we get back to being students and not employees? Specifically student athlete status and not employees."

Fitzgerald/Northwestern answer: "Unfortunately, the petition has been filed, and the regional director has ruled that the players are employees. Northwestern agrees with you that you men are students, not employees, and that's why the University is appealing the decision. That process has to go forward, but you can still express your desire to "get back to being students" by voting "No."

Players, their parents and program staffers had opportunities to submit questions via a drop box or email. The document was dated from April 1-6.

The school also used the word "stuck" when a member of the team asked what would happen to a player who voted no to a union and the union vote passed. The school responded that the dissenting player would be "stuck with whatever the union negotiates."

Northwestern is prohibited from speculating, promising or threatening anything about unionization, but those terms still obviously leave a lot of wiggle room for skewed responses.

On April 9, three days after the document's final date, QB Trevor Siemian said he was against unionizing, saying he's been treated far better than he deserves while other players have openly wondered about the potential ramifications of a union.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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