NU responds to ruling players are employees

Northwestern University is disappointed by today’s ruling by the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board finding that Northwestern University’s football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships are employees and directing 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 University.

[ MORE: Dienhart: NLRB's ruling is 'a bit surprising' ]

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.

Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost. We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity.

The issues regarding the long-term health impacts of playing intercollegiate sports, providing additional grant-in-aid support and providing academic support and opportunities for student-athletes are being discussed currently at the national level, and we agree that students should have a voice in those discussions. However, we believe that a collective bargaining process at Northwestern would not advance the discussion of these topics, in large part because most of the issues being raised by the union are outside the purview of Northwestern.

[ MORE: Read all of our Northwestern unionization coverage ]

In addition, Northwestern is committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all of its students, including its student-athletes. The University provides primary or secondary medical coverage for all of its student-athletes for at least a year after they no longer are eligible to participate in intercollegiate sports — and beyond if applicable. In addition, Athletic Department staff members offer extensive support and personalized attention for all student-athletes in nutrition, health and exercise training.

Northwestern is proud of our students for raising these issues. Northwestern teaches its students to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world. We look forward to working with our students through other appropriate mechanisms to continue to address these issues.

– NUSports.com

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3 Comments

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Craig Schreiner on 3/27/2014 @ 8:22am EDT Said:

What the hell was your scholarship all about???????

Cember on 3/29/2014 @ 10:25am EDT Said:

I don’t believe that a players’ union need be in an adversarial relationship with the university. Rather, it should be an aid to faculty and administration in bringing student-athlete concerns to faculty and administration via an organized, thoughtful and recognized process.

A student-athlete remains both a student and an athlete, whether s/he stays on an intercollegiate team or not. That the student-athlete loses his/her scholarship if s/he stops playing while still eligible is a clear indication that the university views the athletic scholarship as payment for services. Since the recipient of this payment doesn’t have control over his/her working conditions, and may not provide his/her athletic services to anybody but the scholarship grantor, a clear employer-employee relationship exists, at least under IRS definitions.

I imagine that this ruling NLRB ruling means that, in addition to scholarship athletes having the right to form unions, the IRS will quickly move to declare the value of the scholarship to be taxable income; but that’s another discussion.

Certainly, at least football and basketball are viewed by the universities as ‘profit centers’ and the problem of how the NCAA deals with the concept of student-athletes as employees, and therefore professionals is yet another discussion.

Go ‘Cats, and lotsa love to Kain Colter!

Craig Schreiner on 3/29/2014 @ 4:32pm EDT Said:

How will the television contracts be sorted out? Will they cover specific union athletes only? Will each student athlete be paid on performance? What about a union verses non-union game? I hope the IRS taxes the living daylights out of them.

You can’t be serious. Look at what public unions have done to Chicago, Detroit & Atlanta! All bankrupt, all due to public service unions and the benefits they are promised so they won’t strike without having paid for them. GOOD LUCK!