A groundbreaking day in college athletics. The Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), has ruled that Northwestern football players can unionize and qualify as employees of the university.
Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the NLRB, gave the following explanation for his ruling.
“The record makes clear that the Employer’s scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school.”
Northwestern University on the other hand, was not so happy about the decision and the school said it plans on appealing.
“While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director’s opinion, we disagree with it,” the school said in a statement. “Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.”
Whether college football players should be paid has been one of the longest on-going debates in sports. And with this ruling, the stage is set for not only Northwestern players to get paid, but players from all other schools across the country.
Though this is only the first step into creating a union for college athletes, it’s a shot fired across the bow of the NCAA, and its creation of the term “student-athlete.”
And you can tell that they aren’t too happy about it either.
“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.”