The Van Trump Report

Seriously… Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Team Votes to Unionize

Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team voted 13-2 yesterday in favor of forming a “union”. Yes, you read that correctly, the basketball team is unionizing. As someone who played college sports, and is greatly appreciative of the opportunity, this blows my mind. My parents told me as far back as I could remember, that once I graduated high school and turned 18, I was to be out of the house and on my own. That’s just the way it was at my dad’s house when he was a kid and his dad’s house. I was told by my parents that they would help me get into one of the trade unions, but if I wanted to go to college I better save my money (from working as a kid) or work hard enough in high school and get some type of scholarship. I knew they were serious, so I worked hard and was blessed to have offers from several different colleges in two different sports. Let’s just say, I thought I had won the lottery. I was going to get to go to college and play a sport, and the school was going to pay my way. I didn’t think it could get any better than that. I promise I certainly wasn’t thinking or worrying about what the college was making or that I was somehow being exploited. In fact, from my perspective, I thought I was pulling one over on the University. I just couldn’t believe I was going to go to college and get all my classes paid for and also get a weekly check, free meals, a roof over my head, etc… all while having fun playing a sport I loved. Let’s just say I was and still am forever grateful! 

I always thought unions were started back in the 18th and 19th centuries to help improve horrific working conditions and terrible treatment by many bosses, and through the years advanced to provide improved overall treatment, better benefits, and better wages to workers. Keep in mind, that both my father and my wife’s father were huge supporters and members of trade unions. In other words, my wife and I both grew up in homes that had tremendous respect for unions and were constantly told how beneficial they were. But for the life of me, I don’t see why college athletes would need to unionize. How about this… if you don’t think you are being treated fairly and don’t appreciate getting to play a sport for your college or university… then don’t!

I remember getting in trouble a few times in high school and being benched by the coach, same thing in college. Each time the coach told me it was a privilege to get to play a sport and also a privilege to get to represent the school. If we didn’t get good grades and or didn’t show upstanding citizenship and public conduct those privileges would be taken away. I just can’t get my head around thinking somehow the school owed me something. Again, I guess I’m just getting old and feel like common sense has been thrown completely out the window. 

So what if the colleges and universities are making money from their sports programs? Have you seen the newest workout facilities, newest stadiums, newest equipment, travel accommodations, etc… What better experience do you want as a college student-athlete? Next, we will be having high school athletes form unions. Where does this type of me, me, me thinking ultimately end? Yes, I believe unions have a place in our country and that they have done some great things for many families, but I’m so tired of hearing athletes bitch and complain. 

I’m sure everyone has their own opinion, and many will disagree with mine, and that’s fair. But how about simply being grateful for the opportunity you were given, then going out and using the tools you were able to acquire in college to better improve the world? Remember, you chose to play a sport for the school. If you regret your choice then simply step aside and let the next in line have the opportunity. I suspect if this plays out we will start to see colleges and universities canceling sports programs and getting back to the basics of educating kids. It saddens me to think that underprivileged kids might ultimately lose their opportunity to attend an Ivy League college because athletes today (who have never had it better) got greedy by worrying too much about what others were getting. Below is just a bit of what both sides released in statements yesterday after the vote.
“Today is a big day for our team,” said Dartmouth players Cade Haskins and Romeo Myrthil in a statement. “We stuck together all season and won this election. It is self-evident that we, as students, can also be both campus workers and union members. Dartmouth seems to be stuck in the past. It’s time for the age of amateurism to end. We call on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees and President Beilock to live the truth of her own words and cultivate ‘brave spaces’ in which ‘changing one’s mind based on new evidence is a good thing.’ Let’s work together to create a less exploitative business model for college sports. Over the next few months, we will continue to talk to other athletes at Dartmouth and throughout the Ivy League about forming unions and working together to advocate for athletes’ rights and well-being.”

The university responded to the vote with a statement after the results were announced: “For decades, Dartmouth has been proud to build productive relationships with the five unions that are currently part of our campus community. We always negotiate in good faith and have deep respect for our 1,500 union colleagues, including the members of SEIU Local 560. In this isolated circumstance, however, the students on the men’s basketball team are not in any way employed by Dartmouth. For Ivy League students who are varsity athletes, academics are of primary importance, and athletic pursuit is part of the educational experience. Classifying these students as employees simply because they play basketball is as unprecedented as it is inaccurate. We, therefore, do not believe unionization is appropriate.”

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