The National Labor Relations Board today dismissed a historic ruling that Northwestern University football players are school employees who are entitled to form what would be the nation's first union of college athletes. The losing side does not have an option to appeal. "That is it. That's a final and binding result," a former assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association tells Bloomberg. Today's ruling, which the Chicago Tribune notes was a unanimous decision from the five-member board, says unionization could throw off the "competitive balance" between teams by setting different standards for practice, pay, and other conditions at union and non-union schools.
Northwestern had appealed last year's ruling by a regional NLRB director in Chicago that led to a vote by football players on whether they wanted to form a union. Those ballots were sealed during the appeal and will now be destroyed. The school has said that its main commitment to student-athletes is to their education, not their athletic endeavors, and that collective bargaining isn't the way to go when addressing concerns of its football players, the Tribune notes. Advocates say unionization would help athletes protect their health and financial interests: The College Athletes Players Association, the group that sought to unionize, was seeking increased scholarships, a fund to help ex-players complete their degrees, and ensured coverage for medical expenses related to sports activities, among others, Bloomberg reports.