Several Georgia players jump behind union movement

semerson@macon.comJanuary 28, 2014 

ATHENS - The next step in the movement to empower college athletes has been taken, and several Georgia football players immediately jumped behind it, as did a Bulldogs basketball player.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported on Tuesday that Northwestern football players are taking steps to unionize.

Ramogi Huma, president of the fledgling National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of the Northwestern players. Huma was the organizer of the "All Players United" protest, which occured last September. Football players at several schools - including Georgia's offensive linemen - wore wristbands with "APU" scrolled on them.

When Tuesday's news came out, Georgia sophomore tailback Keith Marshall was among the first to react on Twitter, posting: "I like what the Northwestern players are doing!"

Several other Georgia players reacted in similar fashion, including Kolton Houston, the Georgia offensive lineman who had a three-year battle with the NCAA over his eligibility: "Props to Northwestern's players, hope it works."

Georgia men's basketball player Marcus Thornton said in an interview that he also supports the idea of unionizing.

"It's like any other different platforms in the working world. I think it's great," Thornton said. "I think it's great for collegiate athletes to have a voice, and a say-so."

Thornton said he didn't have any specific grievances at the moment. But in principle he felt it would be nice to have a union to speak for athletes, for when grievances do come up.

"We (as student-athletes) have a lot of great opportunities and such," Thornton said. "But for specific people in specific situations there are certain things they look for. And there might be more stuff that's generalized in different places. I don't have anything particular I'm looking for.

"But I think it's good to have a union, just so the collegiate student-athlete has a voice. ... I just think it's good to have that voice, to have that ability to speak up for ourselves."

Head coach Mark Fox had more mixed feelings. He was not aware of all the details of the Northwestern suit, and preferred to keep his comments general.

"I think that every student should trust that (if) they choose to go to a school that those people are going to protect them," Fox said. "Kid's rights certainly should be protected. But that (unionizing) is a real big move, and I'm not sure what all it entails. So until I know both sides of the issue I probably wouldn't state an opinion."

Here are the tweets from Georgia football players reacting to the unionizing idia:

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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