NLRB Rules Northwestern College Athletes Employees

Northwestern College football players form labor union after NLRB rules them employees.

by: Alton Pitre, Social Media


In the efforts of Northwestern University football players, led by former quarterback Kain Colter, to unionize all college athletes, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Wednesday, March 26 that, by federal law, college players are qualified as employees; therefore, they are allowed to legally form a labor union.

By statute, an employee is someone who receives compensation for a service and is under the strict and direct control of managers.

The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) guidelines prohibit student-athletes from being paid to play, but are allowed to receive compensation by scholarships and living expenses.

According to CBS News, the College Athletes Players Association’s (CAPA) attorneys argued that college football is for practical purposes; a commercial enterprise that depends on students’ labor to generate billions of dollars in profits. They contested that it makes a relationship of labors to players and employers to employees.

In the case of Northwestern football players, coaches are the managers and scholarships are a form of compensation. CAPA likened scholarships to employment pay and countered that they were more like grants.

“This is a huge win for all college athletes,” Colter tweeted about Wednesday’s ruling.

CAPA’s specific goals include guarantee coverage of sports-related medical expenses for former and current players, better procedures to reduce head injuries, and letting players pursue commercial sponsorships.

“I feel that it’s amazing and much needed,” said Valley’s wide receiver and tight end Isa Bey said regarding NRLB’s findings. “We pretty much are employees. We put in countless amounts of time, effort, and money towards [football]. So it is only acceptable to receive some accommodation.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert pushed for $2,000 per player stipend to assist paying for some costs, but critics say that is not enough considering the millions brought in by the sport.

The NLRB ruling noted that from 2003 to 2013 the Northwestern program generated $235 million in revenue profits, which the university says went to subsidize other sports. For 2011-12, the NCAA reported $871.6 million in revenue, 81 percent of which came from a broadcast rights agreement with Turner/CBS Sports, according to Zacks Finance website.

Those against the federal agency’s decision dispute that it will drive college sports in an unhealthy direction and can hurt it in numerous ways. Results may include the rise of potential strikes by discontented players or lockouts by athletic departments. NCAA is currently fighting federal lawsuits by former players seeking a cut of the billions earned from live broadcast, memorabilia sales, and video games.

Colter told ESPN, “with the sacrifices we make athletically, medically, and with our bodies, we need to be taken care of.”

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