Earlier today, the National Labor Relations Board struck a significant and potentially historic blow against the current student-athlete model. Not so unexpectedly, the guardian — and long-time beneficiary — of that system does not agree with the decision.
In a statement, the NCAA acknowledged it is “disappointed” the Chicago regional office of the NLRB ruled that Northwestern football players are employees and are therefore afforded the right to unionize. As it did in contending the initial petition, the NCAA “strongly disagreed” with the contention that student-athletes are employees.
The decision gives Northwestern football players the right to vote to unionize. While not official, Northwestern is expected to appeal today’s ruling.
Most legal observers expect this test case to end up being argued in front of the United States Supreme Court at some point in the future. Such a scenario, however, is a handful of years down the road.
Below is the complete statement from NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy:
While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.
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.
Over the last three years, our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules. 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. We want student athletes – 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues – focused on what matters most – finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.