We Are Not a Union
Explaining the CFBPA to the Uninitiated
This is a free online newsletter for Jason Stahl, Executive Director of the College Football Players Association (CFBPA). If you’d like to sign up for the newsletter, you can do so by clicking the subscribe button above. If you’d like to financially support our efforts at the CFBPA you can do that here. If you are a past, present or future college football player, I ask that you consider becoming a member of the CFBPA.
When you call yourself a “players association” it is inevitable that you will be inviting misconceptions if you are not exactly like other existing players associations. So, recently, I’ve had several folks in conversation ask something like, “So you’re like the NFLPA [National Football League Players Association] but for college football players?” Of course, we do have commonalities with the NFLPA in what we’re trying to do. However, there are big differences as well. First and foremost, we are not officially classified as a union like the NFLPA. With its official union classification, the primary purpose of the NFLPA is to act as a union for the players of the NFL. Thus, the union collectively bargains for the terms and conditions of employment for the players in the NFL. The end result of the bargaining process is a collectively bargaining agreement (CBA) that is legally enforceable.
As you’ll see there is some commonality with what we’re trying to do at the CFBPA to a traditional union. However, as we near the one-year anniversary of the CFBPA on July 27, I wanted to take the time and write out specifically, and in a single newsletter, exactly what it is we’re trying to do here at the CFBPA. If anyone asks you about our institution, it would be best to bookmark this newsletter and show it to anyone who is interested. Here is what we’re trying to accomplish institutionally:
First and foremost, we are tying to build a massive membership organization through three membership categories across all levels of play in college. Membership is voluntary and is open to high school players who think they might eventually play in college, current college players and anyone who has ever played the game of college football in the past. If you fall into any of these categories, and if you haven’t already, I ask that you consider a membership today by clicking on this link.
Why is building this membership base important? There are many reasons, but the most important has the least to do with the game of football. Namely, we are trying at some level to build a new nationwide community of Americans who happen to have in common that they play the game of football. In this way, at our most idealistic level, we are trying to create a new institution which will revive American community.
I’ve been interested in this subject ever since I read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community during my first year in grad school in 2001. In the book, Putnam shows the rise of an increasingly isolated and fractured American life where people feel increasingly alienated from the institutions that once held them together. Since the publication of the book, with the rise of the internet, social media and smartphones, this isolation has only intensified. The only cure for this sickness is to create new institutions which bind people together and enable them to create new forms of community. With millions of past, present and future college football players in this country, we believe that the CFBPA can be just such an institution. As I said recently in an interview with Matt Brown at his Extra Points newsletter, such an institution would in some ways be a throwback to older institutional models from the past which, as has been documented by Putnam, have been left by the wayside.
Secondly, once you begin building such an institution, it could be a political power base from which you could change the game for the better while improving the lives who come into contact with it. We have set forward the first changes we are seeking in the game through the development of our Platform for Change which you can view at this link. We will likely, at the request of new membership, soon be adding a revenue sharing component to the platform. This is necessary given the mammoth new media rights deals likely coming in the near future to college football.
We hope once we show our strength that the power centers in the world of college football would be open to discussing all of our demands. We believe these demands will benefit not only players but also coaches and administrators. Right now, the world of college football is an unhealthy one with burnout reigning among players, coaches, administrators and members of the media. This is true despite the fact that working all the time doesn’t even create winning college athletics programs.
Of course, the problem of workplace burnout is not unique to college football, but we believe that the CFBPA can help address the problem as it exists in our world. This is why one of the main reforms that we advocate is the employment of a full-time CFBPA rep embedded in every major college football program to enforce rules and regulations that have been agreed upon by the players, administrators and coaches. This would include hours worked, practice conditions and independent medical care for the players, among others that the NCAA has shown no interest in enforcing. The rep would also be an advocate for the player should he need one. For those interested, I talked more about this idea with Matt Brown in our interview.
We think that many administrators and coaches in college football know that the sport is unhealthy and unsustainable in its current incarnation. Our reforms—and giving players a real collective seat at the table in all the decision-making in college football—will undoubtedly create a healthier and more sustainable workplace for all.
If you are a past, present or future college football player who supports the type of institution I just described, I ask that you become a member today at this link. If you support the work we’re doing, but have never played the game, I ask that you consider a donation of any amount at this link.