Is this the beginning of a new era in college sports?

NU football playerGood news for football players at Northwestern University who filed for the right to unionize under the auspices of the Collegiate Athletes Players Association (CAPA). A ruling was handed down on Wednesday, March 26th, by National Labor Relations Board, Chicago Division declaring they meet the definition of “employees” under Section 2 (3) of the Act and can unionize.
NLRB states in the decision that the employer, a private, non-profit, non-sectarian educational teaching university, provides four-year grants-in-aid to students for performing as football players. These students have received a commitment from the university based upon playing football and working about 40 hours a week at that job. This is more time than they spend as students. There are also special rules for them as far as what they can and cannot do, where they can live and how they can dress. These rules do not apply to the general student population. It should be noted that these rules do not apply to “walk-on” athletes who do not receive financial aid from the university.
Senior quarterback Kain Colter led the drive for unionization. He testified that he decided to attend Northwestern based on his football skills and wanted to be a pre-med major, but had to change his major because the football commitment interfered with his pre-med classes. Other players also have had to change majors because of this. Football players on scholarships are not allowed to miss practices during the regular season if they have a class conflict.
Under terms of Section 2 (3) of the National Labor Relations Act and as the record demonstrates, Region 13 Director Peter Sung Ohr ruled, “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 within the meaning of the act.”
Richard Epstein, labor law professor at New York University said that the ruling has vast implications for the structure of the sport, if upheld. He also noted that there probably would be an appeal which could take years to resolve.
The Alameda County Law Library also has access to the full text of the decision as well as the National Labor Relations Act (29 UCS §151-169) and all cases mentioned in the ruling.

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