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
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.