Sports Bombshell: Northwestern Players Can Unionize
But school will appeal preliminary ruling to NLRB in Washington
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2014 4:29 PM CDT
Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian during a game in 2013.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(Newser) – Northwestern football players aren't just student-athletes—they're employees of the university who have the right to form a union, a federal official ruled today. How big of a deal is today's ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board? "The stunning decision has the potential to alter dramatically the world of big-time college sports," writes Alejandra Cancino in the Chicago Tribune. The AP's Michael Tarm uses similar language, calling it a "stunning ruling that could revolutionize college sports." But first things first: The school plans to appeal to the NLRB in Washington, and nothing is expected to change until that decision comes down. Even then, the case could wind up in the Supreme Court.

Northwestern's team is the first to seek permission to unionize, and it''s getting help from a players' rights group called the College Athletes Players Association. CAPA, in turn, is getting support from the United Steelworkers union. CAPA's attorneys say that players generate so much money for schools that they are clearly employees, and that they're already getting paid, though not enough, in the form of scholarships. Northwestern's attorneys argued that there's a big distinction between college players and, say, truck drivers, and it called those scholarships not pay but "grants," reports the LA Times. If the NLRB sanctions such unions, expect teams all over to follow suit. Among other things, the unions would likely demand better coverage of medical expenses for current and former players, along with the right to pursue commercial sponsorships.

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Mar 27, 2014 2:33 PM CDT
Horrible idea the students already get 100k+ in tuition, books etc so that is payment enough. However, I do believe any college athlete should be compensated by any outside business that uses their likeness in advertising a product and should receive a portion of any merchandise sold with their name or jersey number. This should keep the NCAA out of it and the athlete can retain amateur status.
Mar 27, 2014 10:48 AM CDT
This crazy idea can be corrected merely by the NCAA lightening up on what a student can earn or be given without violating rules that put sanctions on them or teams,,,,allow the kids to earn a few bucks to go get a pizza or burger with friends,,,,it's not allowed,,,,yes, agents and coaches and alumni went way overboard with gifts, but the kids and teammates suffered,,,,some students can't afford what other students can afford,,,,the NCAA committees are corrupt,,,,
Mar 27, 2014 8:44 AM CDT
Why not spin the sports teams off of the school completely, as an independent business that franchises the school name. The team would be free to pay athletes what they want, collect minor ball sponsorship from pro football . If the kid wants an education, he attends school and his team can support him at the same rate as students. In the end the school name gets the glory, a fee for using their name and full tuition for the student sponsor.