NLRB Ruling: Northwestern Football Players Are Employees And May Unionize

Large information on the college sports labor front: the Nationwide Labor Relations Board has ruled that college athletes who receive scholarships from private universities are “employees” below the Nationwide Labor Relations Act.

Based mostly on this ruling, college football players at Northwestern University may possibly officially get started the process of unionizing.  This indicates inside of seven day, Northwestern University should submit to the National Labor Relations Board a checklist of the full names and addresses of all college athletes on scholarship, with eligibility remaining.  These athletes will then participate in the unionization vote.

In a tersely worded statement, the NCAA has indicated its disapproval with the decision, and expectation that Northwestern University will file a request for overview of this determination with the Nationwide Labor Relations Board.  Nevertheless, any ensuing battle to overturn today’s ruling figures to be an uphill battle that will only more showcase the excellent disparity between the revenues derived from college sports activities and the monetary standing of school athletes.

There are numerous factors to believe that the NLRB was appropriate in its determination, defining pupil-athletes that get scholarships as “employees” under the law. As I pointed out in January, Division I football and men’s basketball gamers do not just play a sport of leisure. Student-athletes are the labor force behind a rewarding secondary business in hosting organized sporting events, and can be essential to miss significant quantities of class time to that finish.

These issues were mentioned in detail in NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr’s view, which repeatedly referenced the 50 to 60 hrs per week that Northwestern University football gamers have to work every week, as nicely as the significant quantity of class time missed as a end result of their athletic obligations.

In addition, the NCAA at present generates practically $ eleven billion in yearly revenue from university sports activities — a lot more than the estimated total league revenues of each the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Much of it does not go directly back into the classroom.  Alternatively, a significant share stays “in the hands of a choose couple of administrators, athletic directors, and coaches.”

Moreover, student-athletes are core members of their universities’ marketing teams. Success in university sports activities has time and once more been witnessed to increase the application prices and caliber of admitted college students at specified universities.

Based mostly on the foregoing, it looks unlikely that today’s National Labor Relations Board decision that Northwestern football gamers may possibly unionize will be overturned.

Indeed, a new (and probably much more equitable) era of school sports activities beckons upon us.


Marc Edelman is an Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, Zicklin College of Business, the place he has published much more than 25 law overview articles on sports activities law issues.  His most latest articles like “A Brief Treatise on Amateurism and Antitrust Law” and “The Long term of Amateurism soon after Antitrust Scrutiny.”

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