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.


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.

No Players = No Game

The owner of “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, has spoken. He thinks it is very possible the National Football League could establish a team in the United Kingdom:

London is one of the few cities outside of the United States that would be a great city internationally for the NFL.”


NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium

A lot of people seem to be against it, though. A recent survey found out of 200 fans from the UK, 44% do not want to see the league expand to Europe. Players also seem hesitant.

Andrew Whitworth, an offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, told the Cincinnati Enquirer he knows what he’d do:

I would hope that I was financially able to quit. That’s what I would hope, because if I was, my papers would be the first one in.”


Andrew Whitworth

Whitworh is also the team’s representative for the NFL Players Association. He said he’s not alone:

I don’t see that a lot of guys would want to do that. I don’t see any players that would enjoy that. Sure, you may find a handful of guys that say, ‘Oh, hey, that’d be cool,’ but the rest of them wouldn’t.”

Ryan Clark, a safety for the Washington Redskins, agrees with Whitworh:

I’d retire. I’d definitely retire.”

You can’t blame the players. There’s the long distance factor and being away from their friends and loved ones, the challenge of playing in a new market, possibly moving a family to a new country, the food is different, the weather is unusual, and having to spend more time on a plane than practicing.


Steve Smith

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith told ESPN he thinks the league only cares about money and not players’ safety. Running back Mike Tolbert said he would rather stay in the United States, also:

I would rather not, but if I had to, yeah. It’s just so far from home, my family, everything I know and have grown accustomed to. It’s a nice city. I played there my rookie year [2008], but I would rather not play for a team permanently over there.”

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams said the NFL should focus on helping current franchises build their fan bases, like the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team could do that overseas, though — see this previous post.

Other players are looking at the bright side, like Phladelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce:

But that’s the one thing football doesn’t have, that global area. It’s one of the things that’s cool about soccer and the World Cup. You have that country camaraderie behind it, whereas America, it’s kind of our own deal right now. Anything that’s spreading the NFL to other countries, I think it’s a great idea.”

The NFL will need to find a way to make playing in London attractive if they want a successful international franchise. So far, they haven’t made a move.

“Jacksonville Jaguars of London”

Maybe the National Football League and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan aren’t ready to fully commit to England.


British Airways

Why not have the team split its schedule between Florida and London? The Green Bay Packers used to do it in Green Bay and Milwaukee, and it seems like the Buffalo Bills are headed that way with games in Buffalo and Toronto. The Jaguars already have two employees stationed in the United Kingdom, and they already send cheerleaders, athletes, and managers there in the offseason.


Reggie Williams

Jaguars fans may be a little upset, but wouldn’t they rather have a bi-contentintal team than lose the team entirely? There are a lot of positive aspects. As Khan has said, it would be beneficial to attract international visitors to “The Bold New City of the South:”

Jacksonville is an undiscovered gem, with key resources for tourism and the beaches. It is highly influenced by its maritime business and London is a logical point along the way. We need to take this and market Jacksonville overseas.”

Khan also wants European companies to spend millions of dollars in “J-ville” to entice “Jaxons” to fly across the pond. As ESPN found, the team’s domestic sponsorship revenue rose 14% in 2013, but jumped to 29% when London sponsorship money was included. Even tight end Marcedes Lewis seems to agree:

“It’s just good for the Jaguar brand. “It’s exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide. When I got drafted in 2006, there were some of my family members who didn’t even know who the Jaguars were.”

The bi-continental team would make traveling easier than having the team fully based there. The players could spend a few weeks in London and more time in the U.S., and avoid flying back and forth so much. It would also make broadcasting the competitions easier.


EverBank Field

The games played in the NFL International Series lower ticket prices by at least 10%. If the team had more games overseas, ticket prices would continue to become more affordable. There’s also supply and demand — fewer games in the U.S. would mean more seats sold at EverBank Field. The program would also allow the league to see how many people are truly interested in attending regular games in London, outside the special events from the International Series.

You can’t forget the team’s fan base would grow throughout the process — that’s more merchandise being sold.

Forget being bi-coastal. Bi-contenential is the way to go if the NFL wants to see if it can fully succeed in Europe without a full commitment.