Dienhart: NLRB's ruling is 'a bit surprising'

It was a bit surprising to see that the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that football players who receive scholarships are employees. NLRB directed that a secret ballot election be held to determine whether the football players should be represented by the College Athletes Players Association for purposes of collective bargaining with Northwestern.

Northwestern’s vice president for university relations Alan Cubbage issued a statement today stressing the school’s disappointment with the decision.

“While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director’s opinion, we disagree with it. Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.

“Northwestern plans to appeal today’s decision to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. The University will continue to explore all of its legal options in regard to this issue.”

This all bubbled up last month with hearings in Chicago on the subject in which former NU quarterback Kain Colter and Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald testified.

Shortly thereafter, I spoke to BTN football analyst Gerry DiNardo about the drive by NU players to unionize, and he had some strong opinions against the movement.

There are strong arguments on both sides of this case. And it’s a case that bears watching and could have a big impact on the future of collegiate athletics. But it’s a long way from being resolved.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (2 Comments)
mark on 3/27/2014 @ 10:28am EDT Said:

If these players are now considered university employees does that mean like any other university employee they will pay tuition, housing, books, meals as well as a football participation fee? I have no idea what NU charges for the year but my guess would be in the range of $75,000.

If the players are involved in football August through December and then March and part of April for spring practice which means around 6 months, does that make them part time workers or transient? This ruling will bring more questions than solutions.

Cember on 3/29/2014 @ 10:45am EDT Said:

The compensation that creates the employee relationship is precisely the monetary value of the things listed by Mark. If the athletes had to pay for it all, then they wouldn’t be employees, and this whole question would be moot.