College Football Players Union: A notion that sounded far fetched months ago took the first step towards becoming legitimate after a landmark NLRB ruling.
Kain Coulter, a former quarterback for the Northwestern Wildcats, has been spearheading an effort to make it legal for college football players to be legally allowed to form a union. On Wednesday that hope took a big step towards becoming a reality when a surprising ruling was handed down by the National Labor Relations Board (via Sports Illustrated):
Football players at Northwestern are compensated for a service (i.e. football) with athletics-based grants-in-aid, or scholarships; they have supervisors (i.e. coaches) who control their schedules and monitor what they say on social media; they must abide by certain rules and regulations, and are held to different standards than other students; they can have their compensation taken away (i.e. have their scholarship revoked) for violating those rules and lose their jobs (i.e. their spots in the lineup) if they skip practices or games; and they have a contract (i.e. an athletic tender agreement) that stipulates what they must do to maintain their scholarship.
Coulter has mentioned wanting to improve medical coverage in regards to sports-related injuries for current and former players along with increased efforts to reduce head injuries and possibly allowing players to pursue commercial sponsorship.
Opponents say that allowing player unions would drastically change the landscape of college athletics. The relationship would become an actual employee/employer one and not a theoretical one as described in the ruling. Coaches and administrators would no longer have control of their programs, but would have to make sure they had the approval of a group of kids first before they could do many things.
What’s to stop players from going on strike before a big game and losing the school millions when a game is missed? What is to stop coaches from firing them or only recruiting players that pledge not to join?
Using the logic in the above ruling what’s to stop high school athletes from making the same argument? In that case will child labor laws come in to play?
Northwestern is appealing the ruling to the national level; this decision was handed down by a regional administrator. Should it be upheld it will only apply to private schools since the federal labor board has no jurisdiction over public schools.[SI, Yahoo!Sports]