National Labor Relations Board overturns ruling allowing college athletes to unionize


The National Labor Relations Board has overturned a ruling from March of 2014 disallowing Northwestern football players from being allowed to attempt to form a union.

The NLRB dismissed the petition, declining to assert jurisdiction in this instance. The NLRB also declined to state whether or not Division I football players are employees of the university, stating it “is an issue that we do not decide”.

The reasoning was due to the composition of Division I athletics. The overwhelming majority of the programs are at public universities, which the NLRB cannot assert jurisdiction over, meaning that allowing private universities to form unions would “not promote stability in labor relations.”

“As the NCAA and conference maintain substantial control over individual teams, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labor relations across the league,” the NLRB said in a release.

The NCAA appealed a decision made 17 months ago that allowed a former Northwestern quarterback to form the College Athletes Players Association.

For those interested, the entire ruling can be found here.

This is another win for the NCAA. While the association was not directly involved in this case, it was strongly opposed to the ruling. This decision came less than a month after a stay was granted in an injunction in Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA.

In a statement, NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy called the ruling “appropriate”.

“In its ruling, the NLRB recognized the NCAA continually evolves to better support college athletes. In recent years we have provided college athletes with multi-year scholarships, free education for former college athletes and unlimited meals. Further, college athletes helped Division I change rules in January to provide guaranteed, full cost of attendance scholarships and improve student wellbeing. The NCAA and its member schools are committed to providing the best support possible for all college athletes and will continue to do so in the future. This ruling allows us to continue to make progress for the college athlete without risking the instability to college sports that the NLRB recognized might occur under the labor petition.”