Northwestern University

6 Ignored Factors Of The NLRB Ruling That College Athletes Are Workers

Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University football players who acquire grant-in-aid scholarships are personnel and thus entitled to the correct to unionize.

This ruling has obtained widespread media interest.  Nonetheless, some of its most crucial factors have been largely ignored.

Right here are 6 factors of yesterday’s ruling that have therefore far gone unnoticed:

one.  The NLRB ruling exhibits just how lucrative university football is for Northwestern University.  In addition to reaching an total conclusion favorable to Northwestern University football players, p. 13 of the NLRB selection comprehensively breaks down the revenue and expense framework of the Northwestern University football program.  Even though many presume that a football program this kind of as that at Northwestern may be dropping money, the opinion explains that the Northwestern University football plan truly “generated $ thirty.1 million in revenue and [just] had $ 21.7 million in expenses” for the 2012-13 academic 12 months. ” This obtaining of $ 8.4 million in annual profits for Northwestern football calls into doubt any argument that Northwestern University would cease to operate as a consequence of yesterday’s locating that its athletes might unionize.  Shutting down Northwestern football would value the university far too considerably income.

two.  The NLRB ruling clarifies the in depth time dedication that Northwestern football gamers have to devote to their sport.  The NLRB ruling additional makes abundantly clear that taking part in college football at Northwestern is not a leisure action, but rather a full-time task.  Most immediately on point, on p.6 of the ruling, the NLRB states that during the school football season “the gamers dedicate forty to 50 hrs per week to football-associated routines, which includes travel to and from their scheduled games.”  Meanwhile, on, the ruling discusses how football gamers must miss Friday lessons to travel for street games, thus creating the registration for lessons on that day rather impractical.

three.  The NLRB ruling illustrates the extraordinary degree of handle that Northwestern University maintains over its football gamers throughout the year.  Most informal school football followers do not acknowledge the volume of ‘big brother’ that some schools play over their athletes, even for the duration of the off-season.  At least at Northwestern University, college football gamers have very little personalized freedom,  According to the NLRB choice, freshman and sophomore football players at Northwestern University are required by the university to dwell on campus.  Meanwhile, upperclassman that want to reside off-campus have to submit their proposed lease to the staff coach for approval.  In addition, Northwestern football gamers should disclose comprehensive info about the auto they drive.  In addition, gamers are limited in what they could post on the Web, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  Gamers are even prohibited from denying Facebook buddy requests from their coach, to ensure all of their individual communications are monitored.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University (Photograph credit: Marit &amp Toomas Hinnosaar)

4.  The NLRB ruling gives detailed examples of how players’ football obligations might get precedence above academics.  Another intriguing (albeit disturbing) nature of the NLRB ruling is its discussion of the accurate interplay in between athletics and academics.  The NCAA loves to encourage the myth of the pupil-athlete who has the opportunity to completely focus on each pursuits.  Thus, absolutely nothing seems worse for university sports than accounts of school athletes being dissuaded from taking the most rigorous of course perform.  On p. 11 of the NLRB selection, the NLRB discusses the statement of Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter indicating that “his coaches and advisers discouraged him from taking [a pre-med chemistry program in a certain semester] simply because it conflicted with morning football practices.”  Even though other Northwestern University football gamers took a softer see on this issue, stories of those like Colter all but ruin university sports’ argument of getting a benevolent intent.

five.  Footnote 1 of the NLRB ruling confirms that the Employer (Northwestern University) is engaged in interstate commerce.  Moving on from the NLRB decision’s details to its holdings, 1 of the more ignored legal conclusions is the NLRB’s obtaining in footnote one that Northwestern University’s football program engages in interstate commerce.  Of program, engaging in interstate commerce is a prerequisite essential for the National Labor Relations Board to exert its jurisdiction.  However, it is also a threshold situation essential for an antitrust challenge under Part 1 of the Sherman Act.  The Nationwide Collegiate Athletic Association has prolonged argued it is immune from antitrust scrutiny simply because it does not engage in commerce, and iconoclastic court choices in each the Third and Sixth federal circuits seem to be to have agreed.  Nevertheless, yesterday’s NLRB viewpoint offers no merit to this argument, considerably as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Northern District of California rejected that very same argument in the Pupil Athlete Identify and Likeness Licensing Litigation.

six.  Footnote 10 of the NLRB ruling concludes that ”[it]t is undisputed that the Employer sells merchandise to the public, this kind of as football jerseys with a player’s identify and number.”  This footnote language is also relevant to the a variety of ongoing antitrust cases currently filed against the NCAA, including these presently ongoing in both the Third and Ninth Circuits.  Most notably in the Student-Athlete Identify and Likeness Licensing Litigation, the NCAA had denied that the sale of staff jerseys with player numbers signify the likenesses of real gamers.  This NCAA declare seems to conflict with the quite essence of the NLRB’s conclusion in Footnote 10 of yesterday’s NLRB opinion that finds Northwestern University indeed income from the sale of school football jerseys that are linked to personal players.


Marc Edelman is an Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, Zicklin College of Organization, exactly where he has published a lot more than 25 law evaluation articles on sports law matters.  His most latest content articles such as “A Brief Treatise on Amateurism and Antitrust Law” and “The Potential of Amateurism soon after Antitrust Scrutiny.”

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