NCAA Must Be Worried College Football Players Won Bid to Unionize
Last year, it was the class action lawsuit settled out of court between college football players (past and present) and EA Sports for video game royalties. The Ed O'Bannon lawsuit still dangles over the head of the NCAA like a guillotine ready to sever the head and allow billions of dollars to flow freely.
And on Wednesday, perhaps the biggest whack at the NCAA piñata came from suburban Chicago, as Northwestern football players, led by former quarterback Kain Colter, were granted by the National Labor Relations Board the classification of "employees" of the university and, therefore, granted the right to unionize.
This, friends, is a game changer.
In proving that they indeed deserved the right to form a union, the players had to show that the time commitment to football was equivalent to that of a full time job and that their scholarship (which is their compensation) is tied to their performance. In the eyes of NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr, the players hit both checkmarks, saying in his ruling that they ""fall squarely within the [National Labor Relations] Act's broad definition of 'employee' when one considers the common law definition of 'employee.'"
Ohr also said that the players can vote on whether they would like to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case forward to the NLRB along with Colter and the United Steelworkers union (the equivalent of a sponsor in the union world's Catholic church).
"I couldn't be more happy and grateful for today's ruling, though it is the ruling we expected," said Ramogi Huma, president of both the National College Players Association, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been around since 2001, and CAPA, which was formed in January. "I just have so much respect for Kain and the football players who stood up in unity to take this on. They love their university but they think it's important to exercise rights under labor law."
It's no coincidence that we constantly hear coaches and administrators refer to the players as "student-athletes." That's not a term they use just for decoration. At the core of the NCAA's business model, which in football particularly is built on a relatively microscopic player labor cost compared to the revenue generated, is the necessity that the athletes be referred to as students, which for decades has been enough to skirt the "employee" designation and all of the ripple effect benefits, like salaries, healthcare, and workers' compensation.
On Wednesday, the NLRB's ruling knocked a huge leg out from underneath the NCAA monster.