The Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has given Northwestern football players the okay to unionize. The ruling means that players are now employees under federal law, and they can now create their union.
“Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees,” the NLRB’s ruling read.
The main goal that has been discussed isn’t about getting paid; it’s about better medical protections and for scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance.
The NCAA released a statement in response.
“While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.
We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid.
Over the last three years, our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules. While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college. We want student athletes – 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues – focused on what matters most – finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.”
At this time, the ruling only applies to scholarship football players at private institutions such as Northwestern, because they are under the jurisdiction of federal law. Although appeals will hold up the unionization for months or maybe even years, the old student athlete model is in critical condition.