The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University’s football players are considered employees and as a result are allowed to unionize.
The debate on whether NCAA athletes should be paid or not took a big step with the board’s March 27 ruling.
The decision only affects athletes at private institutions because public schools do not fall under the labor agency’s jurisdiction.
This means that players at ORU are allowed to hold a vote on joining a union.
The ORU Athletic Department declined to comment on the situation.
The key factor in the ruling was determined by the extensive time that college athletes spend on their sport.
Kain Colter, former Northwestern quarterback, testified that football requires 40-50 hours per week.
Another factor in the decision was that scholarships are determined by on-field performance.
With the decision by the board, Northwestern’s players can vote on if they want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). The players will hold this vote on April 25.
Pat Fitzgerald, head coach of the Northwestern football team, encouraged his players to vote against forming a union.
Northwestern University Vice President Alan Cubbage issued a statement saying the school would appeal the ruling to the full NLRB in Washington D.C.
“Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students,” the statement said. “Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.”
The NCAA released a statement expressing their disagreement with the ruling. Similar statements were released by the Big Ten and SEC conferences.
“We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid,” the NCAA statement said. “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.”
The CAPA, Colter and the United Steelworkers union, first brought the case to the NLRB.
In the case, CAPA attorneys were arguing for more than just players being paid to play. Other issues involved included medical compensation for players, adding new measures to help prevent head injuries, and possibly allowing college athletes to have sponsorships.
Ramogi Huma, president of CAPA and also of the National College Players Association, told CNN that the ruling sets a precedent for schools to follow.
“This ruling is going to apply to all private schools in [Division 1],” Huma said. “That’s a significant number of schools, a significant domino to fall where hundreds of thousands of players will have rights under labor law and that’s the first step in creating an environment where players are protected.”