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With little more than two weeks until Northwestern football players vote on whether to form a union, one of the team's leading voices, quarterback Trevor Siemian, spoke out in opposition Wednesday, saying, "(I just don't) think that's the direction we need to go in."

Siemian was Northwestern's player representative during the Big Ten Conference spring media teleconference Wednesday, joining coach Pat Fitzgerald.

A sixth-year senior, Siemian will be the Wildcats' starting quarterback after spending the last two seasons splitting snaps with former teammate Kain Colter, who has been the leading proponent of the team's attempt to unionize.

But unlike Colter, Siemian voiced his concerns over the vote, set to be held April 25. A majority of the team's 76 voters -- unless certain players abstain from voting -- must approve to officially form a union, a cause spearheaded by the regional National Labor Relations Board.

"This all began with the best intentions, for sure. I feel that way, and a lot of guys on the team feel that way," Siemian said. "But given our circumstance here, with the way we're treated ... I'm treated far better than I deserve here.

"I can only speak for myself, but I'll say there's a significant amount of guys on the team that feel pretty similar to me."

Also Wednesday, Alex Barbour, an attorney for the school, submitted a brief seeking a reversal of the NLRB regional director's decision in favor of the Northwestern unionization effort. Barbour concluded the 50-page document by writing, "Northwestern respectfully requests that its Request for Review be granted, the Regional Director's Decision be reversed, a finding that Northwestern's football scholarship student-athletes are not employees within the meaning of the Act, and the petition in this case should be dismissed."

Siemian made a distinction between Northwestern's decision to file for employee cards in late January and April's vote, saying, "Just because you're an employee doesn't necessarily mean that a union is the right avenue."

That Northwestern players involved a third party -- the College Athletes Players Association -- without first reaching out to Fitzgerald and university athletics director Jim Phillips was a misstep, Siemian said.

"Myself included, nobody had ever addressed (Fitzgerald) or Dr. Phillips about these issues," he said. "To say, 'I don't trust you enough to help us out, addressing these changes'? I don't think that's the right way to go."

If Siemian's viewpoint carries weight in the locker room -- an idea bolstered by Fitzgerald's comments Wednesday -- Northwestern's vote could side away from unionization.

"There's no question that Trevor is our leader," Fitzgerald said. "It's his football team."


April 10, 2014


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