A precedent was set by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago on Wednesday.
The NLRB decided that football players from Northwestern University had the right to form a union. This would allow Northwestern football players to be the first labor union in college sports.
NLRB Regional Director in Chicago, Peter Ohr, ruled that "all scholarship football players" at Northwestern who still have college eligibility are considered employees by the broad definition of the word. An order to create a union board by election was immediately made.
Ohr stated, "The record makes clear that the employer's scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school." He added that "no examples were provided of scholarship players being permitted to miss entire practices and/or games to attend their studies."
Former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, who has been designated as president of the would-be football players' union at Northwestern said, "It's like preparing so long for a big game and then when you win -- it is pure joy." Huma added, “Today, college athletes are employees. It’s a first step toward forever changing the balance of power and guaranteeing players have a seat at the table and the right to bargain for basic protections.”
Kain Colter, Northwestern quarterback and co-founder of the College Athletes Players Association, testified that the time commitment he had to give to football kept him from applying for the pre-med program at Northwestern. He explained that players spend at least 40 to 50 hours a week on football and sacrifice their bodies in the process.
This ruling only affects players at private schools. Those seeking unionization at public schools will need to get approval from state-run labor boards.
So proud of my teammates, Ramogi, lawyers, and supporters around the nation! This is a HUGE win for ALL college athletes! #APU
— Kain Colter (@KainColter_2) March 26, 2014
— Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) March 27, 2014
Disagree with ruling in Northwestern football unionization? Watch "Schooled: The Price Of College Sports" Guarantee you'll think twice #APU
— Cam Jones (@CamJones85) March 26, 2014
Congratulations to Northwestern University for bringing the first union to the wealthy hamlet of Evanston, IL.
— Old Hoss Radbourn (@OldHossRadbourn) March 26, 2014
First step win for Northwestern players attempt to unionize. Long way and lots of questions to go. http://t.co/A2gikYdnWi
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) March 26, 2014
At least one person on Twitter do not believe the board's ruling is a good idea.
This northwestern football thing could be the beginning of the end of college football as we know it. I hope it goes away and fast!
— Aaron Moorehead (@Amo8685) March 27, 2014
Vice President for University Relations at Northwestern, Alan Cubbage, said, “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 the ruling made on Wednesday to the NLRB in Washington.
Image via Kain Colter, Twitter.