Northwestern football players will not be allowed to form a union. That is the ruling from the National Labor Relations Board, overturning a previous decision to allow football players at Northwestern to unionize in an unprecedented development around college sports.
In a 16-page document outlining the board’s latest findings, it was determined the players’ petition “would not promote uniformity and stability in labor relations.” The union would have allowed Northwestern football players to bargain over policies in the NCAA that would, as reported by Bloomberg, “would potentially upset the balance of competition.”
Because the union movement has now been shut down by the NLRB, the ballots among Northwestern football players voting on whether or not to pursue a union will never be revealed. It will also allow some around the NCAA and various institutions to rest a little easier knowing they will not have to deal with a union within their athletic departments. Some experts and analysts have suggested and argued a union movement could cripple the sport of college football, with some universities even flirting with the possibility of abandoning football at the highest level.
Whether or not the union at Northwestern would have spread enough to damage the sport of college football will now no longer be something that needs to be evaluated. This does not necessraily mean we have heard the last of the idea of players — sorry, student-athletes — seeking more ways to be treated a bit more fairly around college sports. The fights will continue in one form or another even without a union at Northwestern.