Skip to content

NLRB rules in favor of Northwestern football players hoping to unionize

Mar 26, 2014, 4:56 PM EST

NCAA_Logo AP

With the NCAA tournament in full swing, an issue that has the potential to significantly impact the future of college athletics shifted to the back burner. With the National Collegiate Players Association aiming to gain greater rights for college athletes, a petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago with the hope that the organization would rule that the Northwestern football program meets the standards needed to form a union.

Wednesday afternoon the regional office of the NLRB made its decision, ruling in favor of the players and declaring them to be “employees” as opposed to “student-athletes.” While this ruling would only impact the players at Northwestern at present time, it could set a precedent for scholarship athletes at other universities (private institutions more so than public).

And it should be noted that the ruling refers to scholarship athletes as the ones being able to form a union, as their grant-in-aid represents a form of compensation according to NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr.

The walk-ons also appear to be permitted a greater amount of flexibility by the football coaches when it comes to missing portions of practices and workouts during the football season if they conflict with their class schedule. In this regard, it is noted that both scholarship players who testified, [former Northwestern QB Kain] Colter and [Northwestern OL Patrick] Ward, testified that they did not enroll in classes that conflicted with their football commitments. This distinction is not surprising given that the players are compelled by the terms of their “tender” to remain on the team and participate in all its activities in order to maintain their scholarship.

Predictably, the NCAA has issued a statement disagreeing with the NLRB’s decision, and Northwestern has plans to appeal the decision to the NLRB’s national office.

“Over the last three years, our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules,” it was stated in the NCAA’s release. “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.”

While opponents have jumped to state that the arguments against “amateurism” focus on getting student-athletes paid, the NCPA’s goals focus more on medical assistance for athletes and scholarships that meet the full cost of attendance. Will Wednesday’s ruling help the NCPA make greater advances in these areas? That remains to be seen.

The question for college basketball is whether or not some of its student-athletes would look to make a similar move. At present time, while the decisions could potentially impact all sports football appears to be driving the bus. Will that change? Wednesday’s ruling opens the door, but it remains to be seen which program(s) will be next to challenge the current model of “amateurism.”

Latest Posts
  1. Pregame Shootaround: Only 12 games on Sunday, but one is a classic Big Ten rivalry

    Feb 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Branden Dawson, Brandon Nazione AP

    With the impending football game, not a lot of college hoops on Sunday.

  2. Three-plus months after undergoing brain surgery, Santa Clara senior forward makes season debut

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:43 PM EST

    Santa Clara Athletics Santa Clara Athletics

    Andrew Papenfus made his season debut for the Broncos Saturday night, just over three months after a benign tumor was removed from his brain.

  3. Briante Weber suffers season-ending knee injury in No. 14 VCU’s loss to Richmond

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:42 PM EST

    Briante Weber, Shaka Smart Briante Weber, Shaka Smart

    Kendall Anthony scored 20 points in the second half to lead Richmond to the 64-55 win, but the status of Weber is VCU’s greatest concern.

  4. No. 4 Duke ends No. 2 Virginia’s unbeaten season

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:03 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    No. 4 Duke lands a stunning, come-from-behind win over No. 2 Virginia.

  5. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell channeled his inner Grant Hill Saturday afternoon (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:31 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    In the midst of Louisville’s comeback from an 18-point deficit, Montrezl Harrell showed why he’s considered to be one of the best athletes in college basketball.

  6. Foul line, offensive rebounding aid No. 13 Louisville’s comeback effort

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:02 PM EST

    Montrezl Harrell, Justin Jackson Montrezl Harrell, Justin Jackson

    Louisville outscored North Carolina by 16 from the foul line and by 15 in second-chance points, which helped them erase an 18-point second half deficit.

  7. Saturday’s Snacks: No. 4 Duke rebounds to beat No. 2 Virginia, and No. 8 Notre Dame falls

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Cameron Wright, James Robinson Cameron Wright, James Robinson

    Also of note Saturday afternoon was No. 18 Northern Iowa rolling past No. 12 Wichita State.

  8. Seth Tuttle, No. 18 Northern Iowa roll past No. 12 Wichita State

    Jan 31, 2015, 6:39 PM EST

    Seth Tuttle Seth Tuttle

    UNI went on a 22-6 run over a ten-plus minute stretch as they moved into a tie for first in the Missouri Valley.

  9. No. 8 Notre Dame upset by Pitt

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:11 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Getty Images

    Jerian Grant, Notre Dame see comeback fall short at Pitt.

  10. Trevor Lacey’s insane 3-pointer gives N.C. State a buzzer-beating win at Georgia Tech (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:34 PM EST

    Justin Jackson, Trevor Lacey, Marcus Paige AP

    Trevor Lacey makes one of the best buzzer-beaters of the season to give N.C. State a road win at Georgia Tech.

  11. POSTERIZED: Florida’s Alex Murphy dunks all over Arkansas defender after breaking a press (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:45 PM EST

    Mississippi St Florida Basketball AP

    Florida’s Alex Murphy with a nominee for Saturday’s dunk of the day.

  12. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl greeted with cheers during first return to Tennessee (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:15 PM EST

    Auburn Tennessee Basketball AP

    Bruce Pearl received a warm ovation from Tennessee fans in his first game back as an opposing head coach.

  13. Injured Illinois guards suspended indefinitely

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:34 PM EST

    Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Young AP

    Illinois will continue to be without two injured guards as both players were suspended indefinitely.

  14. UMBC loses leading scorer for the rest of the season

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:15 PM EST

    Maurice Walker, Aaron Morgan, Cody Joyce, Wayne Sparrow AP

    A tumultuous season gets worse for UMBC.

  15. POSTERIZED: Louisiana Tech’s Raheem Appleby goes over Western Kentucky defender for big dunk (VIDEO

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Raheem Appleby, Markel Brown AP

    Raheem Appleby showed surprising hops as the 6-foot-4 guard threw down a solid dunk over a Western Kentucky defender.

  16. Rick Pitino on Terry Rozier’s impending NBA Draft decision: ‘He’s not coming back’

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Louisville head coach Rick Pitino believes one of his underclassmen will definitely leave for the NBA.

  17. Bill Self on the loss of Kansas-Missouri rivalry: ‘It hasn’t been great’

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    That rivalry ended when Mizzou left the Big 12 in favor of the SEC.