NLRB Reviewing Petition for College Football Players Union
Somewhat overshadowed by the Super Bowl, football players from Northwestern University filed a petition to unionize at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office in Chicago on January 28, 2014. Supported by the United Steelworkers, the recently created College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) must demonstrate to the NLRB that the players qualify as “employees” under U.S. labor laws. Playing defense, Northwestern University, the Big Ten Conference, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are claiming that the Wildcats are student-athletes and not employees with the right to unionize.
CAPA proponents argue that unionization is appropriate and necessary to improve football players’ graduation rates and better advocate for players’ safety. Northwestern, specifically, contends that these needs are being addressed as Northwestern’s football players graduate at a rate of 97% while the NCAA is responsible for implementing safety programs aimed at preventing head injuries. The most contentious point will most likely come down to (predictably) money. CAPA argues that a union is necessary to ensure financial security of college players by increasing scholarships and the number of full-ride scholarships, in contravention of NCAA rules which cap the number of scholarships awarded, the scholarship amounts, forbid payment to athletes, and strictly limit the benefits available to these student athletes. Many college sports fans have been questioning the NCAA regulations, which dictate that players cannot be paid for their participation but have generated heaps of money for the NCAA (revenues of $846 million reported for 2011), the conferences, and the schools. The arguments by both sides are underway before the NLRB.
What’s next… cheerleaders demanding fair wages?