A college football team has won the right to form their own union after a labor board ruled that their scholarships made them eligible to unionize.
Northwestern University’s Wildcats in Illinois have been lobbying to form a union under the guidance of former quarterback Kain Colter. The briefing issued by the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the payouts to their players’ scholarships were based on their performance on the field on game days. That technically means they are drawing a salary in exchange for playing for their school and therefore, they are eligible to labor union rights and have the ability to form or join a union to make sure those rights and rules are enforced. Naturally, the players are excited about the ruling but Northwestern University announced that they plan to file an appeal saying in a statement that they believe “strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.”
Did anyone else detect a hint of fear in that statement? If not, they should be. This could be a game-changing (no pun intended) variable for the entire college sports system. As we all know, players often receive a partial or full scholarship to join a team and a college education but they receive no salary for their time on the field while the university and the NCAA and other organizations like it rake in millions off their teams. Player unions could throw a huge wrench into that system and even though we’re not done mitigating the issue, this first step is a big loss for the people who work for and support that system.