Northwestern alumni to form advocacy group for athletes’ rights

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

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With the April 25 union vote hanging over the heads of Northwestern football players, program alumni are looking to take matters into their own hands.

A group of former Wildcats players and other alumni are organizing to form an advocacy group, leader Kevin Brown, a defensive back for NU during the 1980s, told The Daily on Thursday.

“The actual players now have a four-year shelf life,” Brown said. “But the alumni are here permanently, and we’re not going anywhere. So we have the capacity to make the University greater.”

Brown, who also works as Evanston’s Youth and Young Adult Program manager, said he and other organizers of the group, which is yet to be named, discussed the subject with other former players at Wednesday night’s meeting at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. After some debate over whether dialogue should focus specifically on the union, Brown said program alumni reached a general consensus.

“Everyone agreed changes are necessary for college scholarship athletes,” he said Thursday. “Where there was division was the issue we were not taking a position on one way or another, and that’s whether a union was appropriate or not for our athletes at Northwestern.”

Brown said the group will form before the union vote but will not attempt to influence the vote. Former players in NU’s mentor program, he said, should not proactively voice opinions to current players and should only share their thoughts if their mentees ask for them.

Instead of focusing on the vote, the alumni group will speak to University administrators and trustees about how to increase player rights, Brown said.

“We want to step higher (than the union vote),” Brown said. “We want to address issues at Northwestern. We want to engage both the athletic director and the Board of Trustees about this issues. That’s what we want the focus to be: making clear policy changes that can look at issues like extending the amount of years that kids have to obtain a degree.

“We also agree with the health issue, that Northwestern has the wherewithal, the endowment to endow a fund that could subsidize health care costs. Those are the type of real policy issues that we want to address that Northwestern doesn’t need NCAA permission to do. ”

Brown said based on conversations he has had with alumni, he expects “hundreds and hundreds” of former players and alumni to support the advocacy group.