Chris Gradone responds to reports regarding union

Saturday, news came across the Twitterverse of a quote from Northwestern punter Chris Gradone reported in an upcoming television report on the changing landscape in the NCAA by Al-Jazeera America. The quote caught like wildfire and did even lead to a post on this site. Chris asked to have his side of the story posted on LTP and we have agreed to share that with you below:

by Chris Gradone

First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Jim Phillips, Coach Fitz, and all the coaches and staff involved with Northwestern Football. The opportunity to earn a scholarship to such an incredible school and compete on this athletic stage has certainly been one of the greatest of my life. The undying effort and care which they and so many others at Northwestern have put into my experience as a student-athlete is more than I deserve.

Unfortunately, the recent union issue has cast doubts on their support. Also, many see our team as greedy for wanting more, after we have been given so much. In an effort to address these misconceptions, I did several interviews with Al-Jazeera America’s Josh Rushing back in April. My main point was that there are good reasons for reform at the NCAA level but that a union at NU was probably the wrong way to go about it. That is certainly not to say that players should not have the right to unionize, that players in other programs should not unionize if they deem it necessary, or that there is no need for change in the structure of college athletics as a whole.

Unsurprisingly, my nuanced message was lost, simplified, and extrapolated to say that we were coerced and/or threatened to vote against reform. This is quite simply and totally false. Northwestern encouraged us to look at the facts, ask questions, talk to people on both sides, and think long and hard about the type of change that a union could affect on the program for years to come. This message has always been incredibly neutral.

I would like to specifically address my quote that “If a union is brought in, all the benefits we get now are taken away and re-bargained for, so we might not get them back.”

This is a fact, and not a threat.

My understanding of collective bargaining is that, for better or for worse, everything gets put on the table. Given Northwestern’s commitment to our development off the field, it is not unreasonable that in the case of a players union and collective bargaining, we could lose benefits like academic support or professional development, which go far above and beyond NCAA minimums, and show that the school is committed to us not just as players but as people.

Please respect my wish to not comment further on this topic as our team prepares to win a Big Ten Championship this Fall.

Thank you and Go Cats
Chris Gradone

Gradone is projected to compete for the starting job at punter this upcoming year. The junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, appeared in several games last year, taking over punting duties in the final three games of the season. He is majoring in industrial engineering and economics.

We appreciate Chris taking the time to make this statement and clear the air regarding his statements to Al-Jazeera America. We look forward to seeing him compete for Northwestern this fall.

  • Mark Wheaton

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify your position, Chris. I wish you success with your majors, as an NU Engineering grad myself I know you have your hands full! Good luck with your punting as well.

  • gocatsgo2003

    So… Can we all come back to earth now?

    • wild-one

      That statement is flat out awesome. Way to go Chris. Now can we move on everyone ??? Let’s concentrate on what is important – the upcoming season. And as I said before if you see a player out and about Evanston or a regular old CatFan wearing the purple with pride anywhere in the world, don’t ask them a stupid union question. If you can’t think of anything intelligent to ask them that is football related just a ” GO Cats “! would be appreciated.

      Go Chris and Go Cats !

  • CatsInMyPants

    Thank you for the clarification. Now we’ll wait patiently for someone to find a message in this statement, take it out of context, and use it to further their pro/anti union agenda. I’m guessing we’ll have see one on here by noon. Ready, set, go!

    • fidel305

      yeah, thanks for the clarification:
      “That is certainly not to say that players should not have the right to unionize.”
      but, it is good to see him suitably chastened

      • CatsInMyPants

        Fidel, I don’t follow what you are saying. I didn’t express any opinion one side or the other on the union topic (for the record I recognize the validity of both sides of the argument). Didn’t chasten the player either. Just accurately predicting the regular LTP pro-union & anti-union cheerleaders would be here in a matter of minutes to make something out of a nothing story that resulted from a tweet that should have been a non-story to begin with.

        Also, concluding a thought with the word “not” died when the Wayne’s World 2 VHS tapes were removed from the New Releases wall at Blockbuster. You may want to try ending the thought with “said no one ever.” Tired act? Yes, but at least it’s from this decade.

        • fidel305


          your snark was always old and tired. try honesty instead.

          who are you to tell others to STFU after gradone’s “clarification” / request to be left alone? Gradone should have taken his own advice before having an al Jazeera film crew embedded with him. What did he think they were going to do with his pro-union comments?

          and, maybe you find a clarification with a double negative to be clarifying but I don’t. I find it to be weasel worded and deceptive, like you chasing the red herring of whether you chastened gradone. I never said you did. why would I? You’re a fanboi. I said he only put this out after he had been chastened by the NU community.

          keep chasing those red herring. I hear you can catch them with snark

          • gocatsgo2003

            A haiku for you:

            Chris Gradone’s comments
            They have already been aired
            Then, no one cared

            (The special aired on June 21 and pretty much nobody noticed, apparently including yourself.)

          • fidel305

            yeah, I’m behind in my al Jazeera watching. I have all of my favorite al Jazeera shows on DVR though so i’ll get around to it.

            i’ll take your word that something aired on al jazeera. And, If “no one” in a major media outlet has picked it up yet, that’s only because nothing has happened yet with the NU case and the vote has not been revealed. Be patient.

            Al Jazeera followed him around during the vote, right? bet there’s a lot of tape.
            So, when the vote is revealed [or something else happens] I am sure there will be more of gradone’s interviews with al jazeera waxing poetic about college student unions and the draconian tactics NU used to fight this one.

            and of course ….. more need for clarification … unless he doesn’t get the starting job, then all bets are off.

            but, the ‘clarification’ I would have liked from him, if he believed one was needed, was clarification as to why he allowed al Jazeera this type of full access to him during the vote in the first place and what other “context” could he reasonably have expected of al jazeera? I thought NU players were supposed to be intelligent. I suspect he is; he’s also disingenuous.

            His “they-took-me-out-of-context” excuse strains credulity.

          • David

            You know Chasmo’s DVR is full of Al Jazeera’s greatest hits. Maybe he will invite you over for popcorn and AJA entertainment.

          • fidel305

            If you saw it, what’s your take on the “context”?

          • gocatsgo2003

            I didn’t see it, much like pretty much everyone. But that’s kind of my point: it came out, nobody saw it, and nobody cared.

      • gocatsgo2003

        He wasn’t being a distraction. He is a smart kid who stated a fact regarding collective bargaining, which was then taken out of context by his interviewer and subsequently by NU fans. I can guarantee you that this “controversy” or “distraction” didn’t even register in the locker room.

  • skepticat

    Perhaps the ultimate, unfortunate lesson learned here is, if given the opportunity to talk to the press, just don’t. Ever.

    • fidel305

      good advice.
      but they have his statements on video and will air them, so there will be no denying what he said when it airs. that leaves him with the out of context assertion, which I’m going to have to take with a five pound bag of salt given his decision to go with al Jazeera on this.

    • RealFan

      the lesson from this thread, and others, is that Fidel is an ass and should be banned

  • NUCatTX

    ((Sharpens wooden stake))
    ((Priming flamethrower pilot light))
    ((Puts on safety goggles))
    All right, let’s do this.

  • Roy Lamberton

    Meanwhile…. the NLRB is back to square one in getting new members, so who knows how long this will play out.

    • Chasmo

      No, it’s not. All the current national NLRB members have been approved by the Senate and they will hear the appeal of the Chicago NRLB ruling. All the members that were recess appointments are no longer on the board.
      But it will take a long time to play out because if the national NRLB rules to uphold the regional decision as expected, Northwestern will take the case to court.

      • Roy Lamberton

        I was under the impression that the “recess appointments” had been seated.

        If not then, I stand corrected.

    • fidel305

      as I understand it, the Obama NLRB appointees were approved by senate compromise some time after Obama’s unlawful recess appointments.

      however, numerous cases remain as a result of the actions taken by the NLRB when it was unlawfully constituted. included among these are cases challenging the appointments and actions of regional directors including the one who decided the nu case.
      at the time of the nu decision, the nlrb was lawfully constituted and I’m assuming, but don’t know, that the NLRB re-appointed this regional director when it had the authority to do so. but I don’t know that and if they didn’t that’s another appeal point.

      also the term of one of the Obama appointees [ a former in-house lawyer with the AFLCIO and UAW] expires in December after the midterm elections, and that may change the landscape at the nlrb for the nu appeal depending on timing.

  • David

    PRR- Would you like to apologize to Chris Gradone for being swept up in the frenzy on this quote? It would appear that your headline of…

    “Chris Gradone levels new charges in union campaign”
    ….missed the mark by quite a lot.
    You also referred to the quote as a “threat” to the players by NU. Would you like to apologize to Fitz, Phillips and Morty?
    I find you first line interesting that you state that an article appeared on “this site”. You don’t claim personal ownership for the article.

    • Db

      Seriously, what the hell? All the punter did was state the obvious. A statement by the way that everyone important at NU had already been on the record with. And a flagship fan site for the school goes with ‘levels new charges?’ I realize the site is no one’s day job and we are all kind of lucky just to have it, but you can’t run stuff like this and you do owe the kid an apology. If not, I’m blaming the first shank of the year on LTP.

      • David

        I fully expect that PRR will own up to his mistake. He is pro-union…but he is typically fair minded. I certainly would not hold my breath for a retraction from K.T. over at the Pro-union NU site….in other words…the NU site with the official Chasmo seal of approval.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I spoke with him via e-mail. He asked to have this statement published to clarify. I agree the headline was misleading.

      • David

        Stand up move. I don’t always agree with you…but you are fair.

  • Mr. Gradone – Thank you for being willing to talk about this. Please go forth with the rest of the team and win the Big Ten! (And keep those grades up!) :-)

    Go Cats!

  • Wildcat Fan

    Thanks Chris! You’re a very intelligent young man. As an NU Industrial Engineering grad myself, I wish you the best in life and I know you will be successful!

  • David

    I am also glad that Chris Gradone came out and gave this clarification. It is exactly what I suspected to be the case. I am really glad that none of the readers on LTP came on here and made acusations about Gradone’s motives. He clearly was a victim of a few words pulled out of context.

  • NUWildcat

    Well said, Chris. Good luck this season!

  • Bandcat

    Thanks Chris…hope you become a Tau Beta Pi and lead the B1G in punting this year!Go Cats!

  • fidel305

    how can he punt with his foot in his mouth?

  • Next Cat

    RE: “my nuanced message was lost, simplified, and extrapolated” — what he said. +1.

    Whether it’s NCAA reform/ NU union stuff or national political issues, we seem to be in an era where nuance gets lost far too easily, complex positions on complex topics get oversimplified, and highly selective portions of public commentary (of all types) get extrapolated in pursuit (or simple reinforcement) of narrow and preexisting ideological perspectives. I hate that. I hate it when others do it to me. I hate it when I catch myself doing it to others. As an old, “get off my lawn” fart, maybe my hope for a return to civility and an appreciation for exploring differing views — actually, the absolute NEED for that in effective problem-solving in any context — is nostalgic and naive. But, it’s my hope nonetheless.

    Thanks, Chris, for causing me to reflect on that a bit — not only with respect to your experience of late but also with respect to myself and this site. Thanks LTP/PRR for posting this. Go Cats!