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NLRB general counsel says private college football players are employees

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The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board released a memo Tuesday stating he believed football players at private colleges qualify as employees.

Published Wednesday by Inside Higher Education, NLRB general counsel Richard Griffin wrote to the organization’s regional directors that “scholarship football players in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision private-sector colleges and universities are employees,” according to his interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act.

While nothing in Griffin’s memo is legally binding, it is a step forward to end amateurization in college football.

“It’s definitely historic,” Ramogi Huma told IHE. “By declaring that these athletes are employees, the general counsel is saying that his office is committed to protecting college athletes’ employee rights under the labor laws, and I think that can’t be understated. It’s what the players at Northwestern set in motion, and this is a major milestone.”

Huma led unionization efforts at Northwestern in 2014, an effort that initially resulted in a win for Wildcats players before a reversal ruled in favor of the school in 2015.

However, Griffin wrote Tuesday that FBS players “clearly satisfy the broad definition of employee and the common-law test.”

“Scholarship football players should be protected [by the NLRA] when they act concertedly to speak out about aspects of their terms and conditions of employment,” he wrote. “This includes, for example, any actions to: advocate for greater protections against concussive head trauma and unsafe practice methods, reform NCAA rules so that football players can share in the profit derived from their talents, or self-organize.”

He continued: “We determine here that the application of the statutory definition of employee and the common-law test lead to the conclusion that Division I FBS scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA, and that they therefore have the right to be protected from retaliation when they engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection. It is our hope that by making our prosecutorial position known, we will assist private colleges and universities to comply with their obligations under the act.”

The NCAA’s general counsel Donald Remy disagreed with Griffin’s stance, of course. His entire organization foundationally exists to disagree with Griffin’s stance. “The NLRB previously decided that it would not exercise jurisdiction regarding the employment context of student-athletes and their schools,” Remy told IHE. “The general counsel’s memo does not change that decision and does not allow student-athletes to unionize. Students who participate in college athletics are students, not employees.”

Georgia football’s account remains on Twitter suspended list

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Even as he now resides in South Florida, it appears Mark Richt has lost control of Georgia football’s Twitter account.

Shortly before Saturday’s second spring game under Kirby Smart, UGA’s Twitter account for the football program was suspended.  That marked the sixth time since January 17 of 2017 in which the account was suspended, and that suspension remains in effect as of this posting.

While there has been no official word from the university or athletic department on the latest suspension, it appears that it is related to, once again, a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.  Essentially, UGA is accused of using copyrighted music in their tweets, which has led to their five previous suspensions.

Along with the most recent suspension as well as the first in January of last year, UGA’s account was suspended June 20, 2017; July 27, 2017; August 14, 2017; and February 7, 2018.  The last one came during National Signing Day, with USA Today noting at that time that “[t]he DMCA suspends accounts after three violations within a certain period.”

Western Kentucky QB Steven Duncan arrested for DUI

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Western Kentucky quarterback Steven Duncan was arrested Sunday morning on a charge of driving under the influence.

The WKU Herald reports that Duncan was booked at 2:43 on Sunday morning and, in addition to DUI, was charged with failure to produce insurance and failure to illuminate his headlights. “We are aware of the situation and currently gathering more information,” the program told the Herald. “We take this matter very seriously as a football program.”

Duncan is a redshirt sophomore from Charleston, S.C. He completed 2-of-2 passes for two yards as a redshirt freshman in 2017, and is in open competition with fifth-year senior Drew EcklesDavis Shanley and Graydon Kulick to replace the graduated Mike White as starting quarterback. White threw for 4,177 yards with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions in head coach Mike Sanford‘s first season.

WKU concluded its spring on Saturday with a 92-play scrimmage.

“Spring game, beautiful day, great to have the fan base out here, it was a fun game,” Sanford said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a traditional spring game, tackle, playing with two true teams, but the work we wanted to get out of it we absolutely got out of it. We got 92 plays in the scrimmage. We wanted to make sure every single person on our roster got a rep today and that was good to see. Overall, I’m pleased with what I saw.”

Former Notre Dame player Kona Schwenke dies at 25

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Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Kona Schwenke died at his Laie, Hawai’i, home on Sunday, the program confirmed on Monday. He was 25.

Cause of death was not known as of press time.

Hailing from the same hometown as Manti Te’o, Schwenke was a 3-star member of Notre Dame’s 2010 class and appeared in 31 games with nine starts over the following four seasons. He collected 30 career tackles, helped the Irish post an undefeated regular season with an appearance in the BCS National Championship as a junior and won the Irish’s Next Man In Award as a senior.

He was signed to the rosters of the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks but did not appear in a game before concluding his football career in 2016.

“We will tell the stories of how things were different with you. I love you my brother. Thank you for everything over the years,” fellow Hawaiian and former Notre Dame player Robby Toma wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. “I am grateful for the time we got to spend with you on earth. My heart hurts, but I know the memories we have will last a lifetime. Look over us, my USO. My prayers are with my Schwenke Family. #RIPuso”

Funeral arrangements were not available as of press time.

Ohio State RB Antonio Williams transferring to UNC

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Ohio State running back Antonio Williams is moving a bit closer to home to continue playing his college football. The North Carolina native reportedly will transfer to the University of North Carolina to play for the Tar Heels. Williams announced his transfer news via Twitter.

“Though being at Ohio State provided me with the right path to reach those goals, the timing for me to be at OSU wasn’t the most ideal,” Williams said in a statement on Twitter. “With that being said, following the end of this semester, I will be transferring to the University of North Carolina.”

Williams appeared in 12 games for the Buckeyes last season, carrying the football 57 times for 290 yards and three touchdowns in a backup role. Ohio State’s running game was led by freshman breakout star J.K. Dobbins and sophomore Mike Weber. Both are back this fall to continue carrying the ball for Ohio State, which would have left Williams sitting no higher than third on the team’s depth chart.

Before attending Ohio State, Williams previously committed to UNC during his recruiting cycle. He switched his commitment status to Wisconsin before making one final switch to Ohio State.

Williams will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Williams will likely burn his unused redshirt season this fall to retain two years of eligibility at UNC.