While not immediately, the course of collegiate athletics is in the midst of what will ultimately be monumental changes. Whether that’s good or bad for sports in general and football specifically remains to be seen.
In a historic ruling Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players meet the standards under federal guidelines to form a union. The initial petition was filed by the National College Players Association on behalf of former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), and had the backing of the United Steelworkers union.
The NLRB ruled essentially what CAPA had argued in stating its case: football players are employees of the university.
“Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees,” an excerpt of the NLRB’s ruling read.
For now, the goals of the NCPA/CAPA are “better concussion and other medical protections, and for scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance” as well as “a trust fund that players could tap into after their NCAA eligibility expires to finish schooling or be rewarded for finishing schooling.” This ruling does, though, have the potential to open up the possibility of salaries or other financial streams — endorsements, revenue sharing from merchandise sale, etc. — on down the road.
It should be noted that this decision, for the moment, applies only to private institutions such as Northwestern. Public universities, which make up the vast majority of FBS institutions, are under the jurisdiction of state laws, not federal.
Northwestern is expected to issue a statement on the decision in the very near future, at which point the university will likely announce an appeal.