Northwestern Football Players Granted Right to Unionize

Unionization Among Football Players

Iunionizen a major development in college athletics, the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled that football players at Northwestern University are employees and legally have the right to unionize, according to CNN. This could be a big hit to the NCAA’s idea of amateurism and could potentially change the college athletics system as we know it.

The board determined the fact that athletes are compensated with scholarships, practice and play between 20 and 50 hours per week and generate millions for their institutions legally makes them employees.

Perhaps the biggest fallout in this decision is that if the appeal fails to reverse the ruling, athletes may now have the right to participate in collective bargaining. This means football players at Northwestern could negotiate with the school to determine their conditions of employment. For example, the players may want a percentage of the school’s earnings –  much like what professional athletes receive for jersey and merchandise sales.

NCAA’s Response

Obviously, the NCAA is strongly opposed to this ruling and believes the majority of athletes are happy with the current state of college athletics.

“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,” read the statement from NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy. “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.”

The NCAA isn’t going to go down without a fight, but if Northwestern football players receive the right to participate in collective bargaining, there is no telling how many other athletes will attempt to attain the same privilege.  I would be surprised if this ruling is not overturned in the future.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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