EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Northwestern football players cast secret ballots Friday in an on-campus hall adjacent to their home stadium on whether to form the nation's first union for college athletes.
Just don't expect results any time soon.
After the vote, the ballot boxes will be sealed for weeks or months — perhaps even years — as an appeal by the Evanston-based university runs its course.
The full National Labor Relations Board agreed Thursday to hear the school's appeal of a regional director's March ruling that the players are employees and as such can unionize, triggering a rule that the ballots be impounded.
Last month's decision by the Chicago-area head of the NLRB, Peter Ohr, sent shockwaves through the world of college sports, prompting sharp criticism from Northwestern and college athletic departments nationwide.
There have been no raucous rallies or demonstrations on the 19,000-student campus just north of Chicago, only official notices about the vote posted near the Wildcats' locker room. There has been plenty of lobbying in the form of private meetings, calls and emails, and everyone from coach Pat Fitzgerald to NCAA President Mark Emmert has called for a "no" vote.
The 76 scholarship football players eligible to cast ballots know the spotlight is on them, said Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association, which would represent the players at the bargaining table if the pro-union side prevails.
Players were seen heading into a campus building Friday where ballots were being cast throughout the morning.
Some of the pressure they feel stems from dire Northwestern claims about the consequences of unionization, he said.
"They're looking at anything and everything to invoke fear in the players," said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker and a longtime critic of the NCAA. "We feel like some of the tactics are scare tactics."