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Florida Voters Say 'No' to Unions for College Athletes

May 4, 2014 - 6:00pm

College sports in Florida made headlines this year when Florida State University's football team won the BCS National Championship, but Florida voters are sharply divided on whether college athletes should be allowed to form a union or be paid salaries beyond scholarships.

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Monday found more than half of voters -- 51 percent -- oppose allowing college athletes to form a union. Forty-one percent said they oppose unionization for college athletes.

Football players at Northwestern University voted last month on whether they wanted to unionize or not. Supporters of unionization say it would help college athletes be better off and would allow them to more easily obtain compensation as well as medical care for injuries. Some also argue athletes are essentially employees of the university and deserve to be compensated appropriately.

But some opponents contend players already get plenty of awards for their athletics, including free tuition.

Florida voters are all over the map when it comes to which college team they root for. But with few exceptions, they are against unionizing college athletes, and they are even more set against paying the athletes, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

When it came to paying college athletes extra beyond scholarships, a higher percentage were against such a measure, with 63 percent of Florida voters opposing it.

Only 31 percent favor paying athletes salaries.

The poll found a stark racial and age divide among respondents to both questions. Black voters were the only listed group to support paying salaries to college athletes, with 68 percent in favor. Blacks also overwhelmingly favored allowing college athletes to form a union, with 76 percent in favor.

The overall findings should not be terribly surprising given the relatively low level ofunion membership throughout the state, said Brown.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at@AllisonNielsen.

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