Student Athletes Better Off As A Union?


The jury is still out – so to speak – when it comes to whether college athletes should be able to join a union and “change the landscape of American amateur sports.”

The debate started grabbing national news headlines when the National Labor Relations Board ruled last March that Northwestern University athletes should be able to form a union because they are legally considered employees.

Northwestern is in the midst of appealing that decision.

Do you believe student athletes should be able to join a union? Click here to read a brief summary to get caught up and then vote in the poll below.


Tough Fight for Wheaties in Today’s World

Jack Armstrong, Michael Jordan, and Alex Rodriguez. Those three men are just some of the hundreds of athletes who have appeared on boxes of Wheaties since 1934.

The concept started when there were only a handful of breakfast items available to purchase, baseball was one of the only sports to watch, and very few companies believed in commercials.

General Mills took advantage of the marketplace by crafting the slogan “The Breakfast of Champions.” The brand associated itself with idolized athletes to sell aspirations.

The marketing plan worked because the brand had a captive audience with baseball games and broadcasts, people trusted the message that they too could perform well, consumers shared their love for the product through word-of-mouth communication, the packaging was easily recognizable, and some folks thought the products were collectibles.

As the cost of advertising increased and the market grew to include hundreds of cereals and the creation of granola bars, Wheaties dropped all sports sponsorships in the early 1950s. The brand realized it made a mistake quickly went back to athletics by 1958.

In a July 2014 article, the New York Times brought up a good point:

HOW do you sell a cereal known for decades as “The breakfast of champions” to younger consumers who may believe “champions” is a quaint word and may perceive breakfast as something from a food truck, washed down with an energy drink?”

The company isn’t afraid to admit the definition of “champion” is evolving:

A champion is no longer solely a megastar athlete; it is also any person who looks inside and challenges their personal best.”

Wheaties is now adjusting its brand by becoming more interactive with younger audiences who help decide what their parents buy at the supermarket.

In the Wheaties Next Challenge, consumers voted for one of five athletes they wanted to appear on the iconic orange box in January 2015. These pros weren’t from the world of baseball or football, though. General Mills is going after the niche markets of emerging sports, like motocross and mixed martial arts.

There is, of course, a catch! Voters had to exercise and record their results through a third-party website and mobile app, which also posted their performances to social media. As David Oehler, the marketing manager for Wheaties, said:

We’re excited to kick off the NEXT Challenge. It’s a new twist on the traditional contest because these athletes and their fans have got to have skin in the game. You can’t just sit idly by and click the mouse to submit a vote each day; you have to get out and you have to work for it.”

Although advertisers are targeting more specific audiences with customized messages that encourage instant feedback, the goal is still the same. Word-of-mouth communication is more powerful than ever because of the influence of social media. Companies want their product to be at the forefront of consumers’ minds. When someone is thinking about what they’re going to eat for breakfast, Wheaties should automatically come to mind as they open the pantry.

By the way, Michael Jordan has appeared on Wheaties boxes a record 18 times — the most of any athlete.

Recruiting A Good Team of Attorneys

The National Football League‘s plans to expand to Europe raise a lot of questions. When will it happen? Will a team relocate or be created? How will schedules be created? Who will want to play there?

It’s drawn a lot of criticism. Green Bay Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy Unknownrecently told shareholders:

I anticipate that the Packers will probably play there in the coming years, but it will be an away game. They will never take a home game.”

It’s also drawn a lot of positivity. Oakland Raiders team captain and fullback Marcel Reece told Brit View NFL:

I’m excited that the Raiders finally get a chance to come out to Wembley Stadium, to have some fun and get a win. We’re an international team and we have an international fan base – there is only one nation and that’s the Raider Nation.”

Patriots_prepare_to_kick_kick_PAT_at_New_England_at_Oakland_12-14-08No matter what side of the fence you’re on, the NFL has some pretty big legal hurdles to jump over first. It’s all about the money, right?

United Kingdom tax laws are very different from the United States. Athletes competing in the UK are taxed up to 45%, while the highest rate in the U.S. is 39.6%.

As ESPN points out, athletes playing overseas are also taxed on global endorsement income:

The amount is determined by dividing the number of days the athlete spends training and competing in the UK annually by the total number of days he trained and competed around the world. That percentage is then multiplied by the athlete’s total global endorsement income to determine the amount subject to taxation.”

Sounds pretty confusing! The teams who play in the NFL International Series games are only in London for less than a week, so the financial burden is very minimal right now.


Wembley Stadium

The bottom line is athletes playing for a London team will have a far greater tax burden. Forbes published an article back in 2012 that really explained the complicated issue. Michael David Smith from ProFootballTalk also posted a few suggestions, like creating extra salary cap space or giving relocation stipends.

A full home schedule in London also means players will need work visas. Ian Robinson, manager at the immigration law firm Fragomen in London, said there may be a quick fix:

The league could negotiate with the existing British American Football Association or it could negotiate with the government to establish its own office based in the UK.”

Players with criminal convictions would have to stay in America, though.


Michael Vick on the Atlanta Falcons

The league will also have to handle labor laws, particularly competition laws and free movement laws. The NFL Draft may become an issue as attorney Andrew Nixon points out:

The trickier issue with the draft system would be that it would breach a worker’s right to move freely, and the EU distinguishes between exemption under competition rules and exemption from free movement rules.”

Have a headache yet? The NFL will need a good legal team to sort through all these stipulations. They can’t expect the United Kingdom to change or bend the rules, either. They have to accept them and make the necessary adjustments. You may consider reading this academic article on “Antitrust and ‘Free Movement’ Risk of Expanding U.S. Professional Sports Leagues into Europe” for more insight.

You Can’t Go Home If You Don’t Have a Home

It’s only a matter of time before the National Football League establishes a team in London, however they’ll first need a place to call home.


Wembley Stadium

The NFL has been under contract since 2007 to play its International Series at Wembley Stadium through 2016, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

According to the Sports Business Journal, league officials have started exploring other venues. Chris Parsons, NFL senior vice president of international, confirmed it to the reporter:

Clearly Wembley gives us some great options. At the same time, Wembley also has England [soccer] games going on during the weeks we play. That is a challenge for us if we want to play more games, how we actually fit into the schedule.”

Even if the NFL didn’t have to work around soccer games at Wembley, it would be great if the league could continue playing sold-out games there, but that’s just not a reality.

We are constantly looking at where we can play, what options we might have. We would be stupid not to.”


Wembley Stadium

Wembley is built for about 90,000 spectators, yet there are only about 84,000 available seats once you consider the space needed for the teams and broadcasting equipment.

Filling 84,000 seats for eight home games will never happen, as SBJ reports:

The average capacity at NFL teams’ venues last season was about 71,000.”

Wembley has nearly 2,000 more seats than MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. There’s no way a new franchise can expect to play in what could be the biggest NFL stadium.

The only reason the league can sell-out the venue now is because there are only a couple games a year, which creates more of a demand and carries a “can’t miss” vibe. The league will see if it adds four games in 2015 and possible five games in 2016, the demand may not be quite as high.

If the league wants to make this London franchise successful, it has to avoid empty seats.


Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium is a possible alternative. It will reopen in 2016 after a lengthy renovation with around 54,000 seats. There is talk that it will have retractable bleachers near the field to accommodate football and soccer games.

London mayor Boris Johnson was in talks with league officials about Olympic Stadium just two years ago.

The talks were exploratory and we are at an early stage but the signs are encouraging.”

There’s even word of plans to build a soccer-football specific 58,000-seat venue to open in 2017.

Some suggest the NFL stay put in Wembley. Terry Byrne, a marketer, says:

The problem with playing in the home of an EPL team is that fans of other soccer clubs might not want to go to that venue even to watch American football.”

Either way, the NFL is going to have to find the perfect venue and step on some toes along the way. There aren’t many options, so finding the right one will be tough and will either make or break whether a team calls London home. Good luck, guys!