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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.