Home Academic information College football players are employees – NBC Chicago

College football players are employees – NBC Chicago


College athletes who earn millions for their schools are employees, the National Labor Relations Board’s senior lawyer said in guidelines released Wednesday that would allow players at private universities to organize and negotiate their working conditions.

NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo also threatened to take action against schools, conferences and the NCAA if they continued to use the term “student-athlete,” saying it was created to cover up the working relationship with university athletes and discourage them from asserting their rights.

“The freedom to engage in large-scale and lucrative business ventures makes players in academic institutions much more like professional athletes who are employed by a team to play a sport,” Abruzzo wrote.

In a statement, the NCAA challenged the qualification of its athletes as employees and said its member schools and conferences “continue to make great strides in modernizing the rules for the benefit of college athletes.”

“College athletes are students who compete with other students, not employees who compete with other employees,” said the nation’s largest college sports governing body, which oversees some 450,000 athletes. “Like other students on a college or university campus who receive scholarships, those who participate in college sports are students. Academics and athletics are part of a total educational experience unique to the United States and vital to the holistic development of all who participate.

Abruzzo’s memo does not immediately change the dynamic between schools and their athletes, who can receive scholarships and limited funding from participation fees in exchange for playing a sport. Rather, it is a legal opinion for the NLRB if a case arises.

It could be triggered by a team effort to unionize, an unfair labor practice complaint or even by a school that continues to label a player as a “student-athlete,” Abruzzo said in an interview with the ‘Associated Press.

“This only perpetuates the notion that actors in academic institutions are not workers with legal protection,” she said. “It’s frightening the rights of workers to engage with each other to improve their conditions of employment. ”

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, said the memo was “still a threat” to the NCAA and its business model, which relies on unpaid athletes to raise billions in revenue that is distributed to its 1 200 member schools.

“All signs point to an increasingly risky and fragile varsity athletics system,” he said.

Although football in the top five conferences is the biggest money maker in college sports, the note would extend protections to all athletes who meet the legal definition of an employee: someone who provides services to an institution and is subject to its control.

The NLRB only has authority over private schools; public college athletes should look to state legislatures or Congress for workplace protections. But the NCAA and the conferences could be seen as co-employers, Abruzzo told the AP.

“If they are doing business in the private sector, they are subject to this law,” she said. “We believe that not only the college but also the conference itself directly and immediately control the conditions of employment.”

The NLRB’s new stance – which restores an old opinion that was repealed during President Donald Trump’s administration – is the latest test for the NCAA and America’s college sports infrastructure.

This spring, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA cannot limit the benefits of education while hinting at the end of the NCAA business model. A few weeks later, the organization, under pressure from several states, paved the way for athletes to earn money based on their fame.

Since March, the NCAA has also come under fire for the disparity between the resources, brand and support given to its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The organization plans to overhaul its constitution, parts of which have been in place for a century.

Abruzzo also wrote that players across the country have engaged in collective action over the murder of George Floyd – action which “directly concerns terms of employment and is a protected concerted activity”. Gamers have also rallied together during the recent pandemic – both advocating for the games to move forward and for rules to protect once they do.

“University players have gained more power because they better understand their worth in generating billions of dollars in revenue for their colleges and universities, athletic conferences and the NCAA,” she wrote.

“And this increased activism and demand for fair treatment has been met with greater support from some coaches, fans and school administrators. Players from academic institutions who engage in concerted activities to improve their working conditions have the right to be protected against reprisals.

The NLRB’s nine-page memo re-examined a case involving Northwestern football players who were barred from forming a union when the board said in 2015 that taking their side “would not promote stable relations. working “.

Much has changed since then, including the awakening of collective social justice and the Supreme Court’s Alston ruling which Abruzzo said “made it clear that this was a for-profit business and not amateurism “.

If cases similar to the Northwest’s come to the NLRB, she said, it could be decided differently.

“I don’t think the board can or should punt,” she told the AP. “I think we have more information on the fact that they are statutory employees.”

The note issued by Abruzzo, which was appointed by President Joe Biden, canceled a 2017 note from its predecessor. This note, in turn, canceled a note issued by the person appointed by President Barack Obama, while Abruzzo was deputy general counsel.

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey noted that repeated reversals and conflicting court rulings complicate institutional planning.

“In view of the resulting uncertainty and to address the many other challenges facing varsity athletics, we hope that Congress will step in and provide clear and consistent legal standards in line with recent court rulings,” he said. -he declares.


AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.


Jimmy Golen is a Boston-based sports writer for the Associated Press and a former Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School. Follow him on https://twitter.com/jgolen