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Athletes Could Be Treated As Employees At Other Universities

A ruling stating Northwestern University football players should be treated as university employees could change college athletics nationwide.

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Photo: spablab (Flickr)

How we treat collegiate athletes could dramatically change.

A ruling yesterday that said Northwestern University football players can unionize could impact athletic departments at other universities.

The Northwestern football players petitioned to be counted as employees so they could bargain for better benefits such as health coverage, concussion training and possibly monetary payment.

The National Labor Relations Board  said because the players work a certain amount of hours per week, receive payment in the form of scholarships and generate significant revenue for Northwestern they should be considered employees.

Kenneth Dau-Schmidt is a labor law professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. He says the definition of employees under the federal labor law is broad, which might mean if the ruling is appealed it will be upheld.

“It actually is not a bad legal argument,” said Kenenth Dau-Schmidt. “So it wouldn’t surprise me if the courts of appeals agreed with this also.”

Because public employees cannot collectively bargain, the scenario is only possible for private school athletes. IU Sport Management professor Galen Clavio says  if this practice becomes widespread it will affect public school players as well.

“I can’t see a scenario where the courts would legitimately be able to say ‘private universities are significantly different from public universities’ in this regard, giving that they’ve all been competing on the same playing field for the last hundred years,” Clavio said.

Both agree something like this was inevitable as collegiate sports have inched closer and closer to professional caliber.

Claire McInerny

Claire McInerny is an education reporter for StateImpact Indiana. She comes to WFIU/WTIU from KCUR in Kansas City. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas where she discovered her passion for public media and the stories it tells. You can follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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  • Bob Eckert

    This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of in sports. Sports are supposed to be ancillary to education. These are students FIRST, athletes SECOND. This is all about money and if it permeates publicly funded universities I will be out front protesting this. The Athletic Dept at IU is self-funded (thank God) and if they buy into this, we should slice them away from IU and let them go commercial and then they will have to pay IU for the use of logos, name, etc.

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