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These impassioned tweets from a football player show why college athletes need unions

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Simon Cvijanović, a former offensive lineman at the University of Illinois, went on a forceful Twitter rant Sunday about why student athletes need unions to represent them:

Some of Cvijanović's accusations are about his own team and coach, Tim Beckman — he says he wasn't allowed to attend the senior banquet or bowl game after a season-ending injury.

But many of his arguments are about how the system is rigged against student-athletes, no matter where they play. The National Labor Relations Board has been waiting for a year to issue a ruling on whether Northwestern football players are allowed to unionize. That ruling could have wide-ranging consequences for college sports.

An initial NLRB ruling in March 2014, from the regional 13th district, found that players were employees and should be able to unionize. Peter Ohr, the regional director, argued that football players are not "primarily students," as they often will "devote 40 to 50 hours per week on football-related activities while only spending about 20 hours per week attending classes." He also noted that competing is not a part of degree requirements, that athletes are not supervised by academic faculty, and that the school only offers athletic scholarship money to students in exchange for athletic duties.

The relationship between players and the team, Ohr said, is "an economic one that involves the transfer of great sums of money to the players in the form of scholarships" that range from $61,000 to $76,000 per year per athlete.

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