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Labor Board: Northwestern Football Players Can Unionize

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 26, 2014 9:15PM


In a historic ruling Wednesday the head of the National Labor Relations Board’s Chicago district ruled that Northwestern University football players are employees of the school, may form a union and bargain collectively with the university. Northwestern plans to appeal the ruling but if it’s upheld it could be a game changer in college athletics.

After weeks of testimony Peter Sung Ohr ruled in favor of the NU players who wish to unionize and wrote in his opinion, “I find that players receiving scholarships from the Employer are 'employees.'"

"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," Ohr added.

Northwestern football players, led by former quarterback Kain Colter and with the technical backing of the United Steelworkers Union, filed a petition to form a labor union with the NLRB in late January. Ramogi Huma of the National College Players Association, who offered advice and guidance to Colter and other NU football players, said at the time the petition “is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table. Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections.”

Northwestern released a statement after the ruling saying they were “disappointed” in Ohr’s decision and the university plans to appeal.

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.

NLRB finds for student athletes unionization