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Fitzgerald touts leadership of Siemian, who says he will vote against union
When Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian heard the question about one of his receivers, Miles Shuler, the Wildcats quarterback sighed in relief.
“Awesome, a football question, great,” Siemian said.
Northwestern’s spring practice will come to a close Saturday, but Wednesday was another clear indication what happens on the field for the Wildcats continues to be the secondary story in Evanston.
Siemian on the Big Ten spring football teleconference reiterated his stance against unionization on Wednesday. Northwestern players filed for employee cards in January, but Siemian said he will vote against forming a union, a plan set in motion by Siemian's former teammate, Kain Colter.
“We filed for employee cards; it doesn’t mean a union is right for this university or this school,” Siemian said. “I think that distinction needs to be made. Just because you’re an employee, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a union is the right avenue.”
Siemian, who split time with Colter at quarterback the last two years, faulted himself for not gathering information as much as he could when he and a majority of his teammates signed employee cards in efforts to form a union. The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled members of College Athletes Players' Association are employees and may unionize.
"This all began with the best intentions."
-Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian
“This all began with the best intentions,” said Siemian, a fifth-year senior. “I’m treated far better than I deserve here. Introducing a third party or somebody else — our main goals when this began, there were issues with the NCAA we thought we could address and that was one of the ways we could do it.”
Goals declared by CAPA include increased stipends, guaranteed sports-related medical coverage, improving graduation rates, allowing players to receive compensation for commercial sponsorships and more.
Siemian said those goals were not addressed with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald or athletic director Jim Phillips before the move to unionize.
“To say ‘I don’t trust you enough to help us out to address these changes,’ I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Siemian said. “I can only speak for myself, but I feel pretty confident there are other guys on the team that feel pretty similar to me.”
Fitzgerald opened his portion of the teleconference with a request to speak only about football topics. He said his comments Saturday — when he urged Northwestern players to vote against unionizing — stood on their own.
“Out of respect to our players and out of respect to our program, what I said on Saturday is enough to be said,” Fitzgerald said.
That same day, four Northwestern players including Siemian said they were against forming a union.
Four is hardly the 50.1 percent majority vote from Northwestern players required to create a union. However, Fitzgerald, when prompted, gave a ringing endorsement for Siemian’s “leadership.”
Of the four players on record against a union, all are upperclassmen and three are returning starters.
“There’s no question that Trevor is our leader,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of great leadership now being demonstrated in our locker room. From what I’ve seen from when we got back in January, it’s that there’s no doubt that this is Trevor Siemian’s football team.”
Siemian acknowledged the strange circumstances around Northwestern, including the vote at the end of April that could have a lasting impact in college athletics.
“You’re not going to have everyone on the same page,” Siemian said. “You have different religions, different political views, but at the end of the day you’re teammates. Everyone’s had each other’s back and it’s just a mature locker room.”