Revered Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer has endorsed his state’s governor, John Kasich, for president. This might provoke relief in some quarters. Kasich is portrayed in the press as a kinder and gentler version of his Republican primary opponents, and at least it’s not another person from the sports world using their cultural capital to back the thug-campaign of Donald Trump. Yet this fulsome endorsement by Meyer, complete with video testimonial, also reeks. It reeks of payback to Kasich for backing a near-billion-dollar college football empire that has enriched Meyer to a staggering degree at the expense of his players.
Governor Kasich was there for Urban Meyer after fellow Big Ten football team Northwestern took steps to organize into a union in 2014. The Wildcats were fighting to have a say in issues relating to healthcare and their schedules. They wanted a seat at the table. The National Labor Relations Board, in its initial ruling, stated the patently obvious: that they are in fact campus workers and should not have to exist in some sort of constitutional purgatory. Yet the ruling was also only confined to private universities like Northwestern, Stanford, and Notre Dame. Public universities are ruled by state labor boards, and immediately—in full panic mode—the Ohio legislature passed a measure strongly supported by Kasich that declared “university athletes are not employees and thus are unable to unionize.” State House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz, a Republican, said, “I think this is a statement of what we all thought was obvious. Athletes are not employees of their university.”
Kasich’s support for preemptively crushing even the right for the Buckeye players to organize was just the latest chapter in his efforts aimed at attacking the standard of living for public employees across the state. After his efforts to turn this onetime union bedrock into a right-to-work state were overturned by popular referendum, he “issued an executive order stripping away union rights from nearly 10,000 independent home health-care and in-home child-care workers.” Kasich has also overseen what The Washington Post described as an “education mess” across the state, gutting public schools to fund a scandal-ridden charter sector while being a slavish proponent of standardized testing. While campaigning, Kasich, in an attempt at humor, said, “I would abolish all teacher’s lounges, where they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’”