The end of college sports? Northwestern student athletes granted permission to unionize

In a decision that could really shake up college sports, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that college football players at Northwestern University can unionize. While the school argued college athletes don’t fit into the same category of other unionized worker, the federal agency sided with the students – stating the athletes qualify as employees under federal law and, therefore, can create the nation’s first college athlete’s union.

If you are a regular listener, you may know Jeffy’s son Elvis was an offensive tackle at the University of Missouri from 2007 to 2012. On radio this morning, Pat, Stu, and Jeffy discussed the possibility of students unionizing and why that would spell disaster for college athletics.

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“How are they employees? I mean [the school is] paying their tuition… [so] how do they work for [them],” Pat asked. “They don’t work for [the school]. They have accepted an offer to come and play football there. That’s not exactly a job yet. It’s a job when you get to the NFL.”

As Fox News reported, College Athletes Players Association attorneys argued college football is essentially a commercial enterprise that relies on the players to generate billions of dollars in profits. That relationship, according to the CAPA, resembles that of an employer/employee.

“There’s an exchange here of goods and services, right,” Stu asked. “They are getting the education. They know what they are doing. It’s not as if they are told they will be paid and aren’t. They know exactly what they are getting.”

Currently, the push to unionize is only occurring in private schools because the National Labor Relations Board does not have jurisdiction over public universities. This could create a real problem if some athletes begin to unionize or receive a salary while students at other schools do not.

“You could wind up with a situation where some are unionized, some are paid and some aren’t. This would be a real problem. It would wind up being an absolute mess for college athletics,” Pat concluded. “If you are going to open it for everybody to unionize, it will be an ugly situation and it will change the face of college athletics as we know it. It will not be the same ever again. And it’s a shame. So I, for one, hope this gets overturned.”

Front page image courtesy of the AP

  • Deckard426

    Northwestern has countered by requiring that the football players actually attend classes from now on, whereupon the football players replied, “What be classes?”

  • Derek Anderson

    Isn’t a free education their pay? Now when a student is injured and can no longer pay, the university should help with medical bills and care, but these student/athletes know what they are getting into.
    Also, look at most of these universities and you will see athletes treated better than the average student. At most Division I schools, athletes get way more perks than most students. I consider those things their pay.

  • Connor

    Liberals just because you see a place that is not unionized does not mean you have to screw with it.

  • Spartacus76

    I don’t think these boys have really thought this one through! If they are “employees”, then they better have a helluva lot of cash ready to send to the IRS. I just looked-up the total cost for Northwestern for the 2013-2014 academic year:

    Tuition = $45,120… Fees (Health $200, ASG $162, Athletic $45) = $407… Room and Board = $13,862… Books and Supplies = $1,878… Personal Expenses = $1,926… Transportation Varies… Total Cost? $63,228

    Now, don’t forget penalties & interest, plus the State of Illinois coming after their “fair share”. So… Do you REALLY want to be employees? Oh, yeah… Don’t forget to pay your union dues!

    I guess you really don’t have to be too damn smart to get into Northwestern, after all… Just have more money than brains!

  • Anonymous

    The first thing Northwestern should do is pull all athletic scholarships and shut down all athletic programs immediately… These guys play three months a year to get a full ride at these schools including the best food and the easiest class load available. For a few this is their chance to audition for the NFL, for the rest it sets up opportunities to membership in the top fraternities and contacts with alumni who have already made it. I’m sure there is some kind of insurance and I know when one of these guys get hurt they get the best medical care known to man… (unless their school has signed up for Obamacare). Let the starting quarterback call his mommy and daddy and tell them he’s going to need 75 grand for next years tuition, room and board and books and don’t forget about the free tutoring to keep him eligible…. What is happening to this country, I would have given my left testicle to play for The Bear or Woody…. instead of playing for the Corps in the South East Asian Conference circa 1968 – 1971.. Quitcherbitchin and thank God for the opportunities you’ve been given…..

  • Anonymous

    Good. Then, when college athletics are ruined, maybe more of this younger generation will realize how stupid they were to continuously support Democrats simply because their teachers told them to.

    • Ashley Richard


      ☭☭☭ ☭☭☭ ☭☭☭⬦ ☭☭☭ ☭☭☭I guess you really don’t have to be too damn smart to get into Northwestern, after all… Just have more money than brains!

  • William Cotten

    If you read the ruling, I think it correctly categorizes the football players as employees. During football season they dedicate 50-60 hours per week to football and the season goes from August to December (or January if you make a bowl game). Also, they never spend less than 25 hours per week doing football related activities. However, I think Mr. Ohr is incorrect in his assessment that the players are not “temporary employees.” A player can only be on scholarship for 5 years, at most; I think this meets the definition of temporary. If he had ruled the other way, then the players could not unionize, because temporary employees cannot engage in collective bargaining.

    • Anonymous

      Plus they start all day practices in July (so they can’t attend the second session of summer school) and since they aren’t in school at that time their scholarship does not cover any expenses for that period. And these guys literally have no time to get a job, not a big deal for some, but enough are from impoverished backgrounds that this becomes a problem.

    • Guardian

      If they are receiving something of value (scholarship to play and subsistence pay) for their “employment” they will have to pay taxes on everything they received of value, which they don’t now.

    • rachaelA

      So does this apply to EVERY student athlete in EVERY sport?

    • William Cotten

      This ruling only applies to football players. The only other college sport that I think could similarly qualify is men’s basketball. No other athletes have the same level of expectations and controls placed on them by the athletic department.

      Also, athletic scholarships that these players currently receive are not taxable to the extent they do not exceed expenses of attending college. Stipends for room and board, etc. are already taxable. ( So, in that regard, this ruling changes nothing.

  • Anonymous

    All those years of Northwestern sucking in football, they are now bringing down the entire house. I predicted that many colleges would be forced to drop football due to environment and sustainable development plans. This could speed the process.

  • Melanie

    Maybe they should drop athletics. I thought people went to college or university to study.

  • Anonymous

    In reading through the comments, I can see we’re pretty much on the same page. For the most part, they are getting credit for a college education, as well as an opportunity to become millionaires playing professional sports.

    If they weren’t so stupid and greedy, they would take the 4 years of college sports as a training/learning experience similar to a FREE 4 year apprenticeship program.
    The cost of college sports to the taxpayers HAS to be staggering, considering all of the logistics involved, the players, the bands, the cheerleaders, transportation and lodging.
    If they were successful in unionizing, perhaps they should split all of these costs between themselves and free the taxpayers of those costs.

    The taxpayers could then go back to funding EDUCATION. What a thought!!!

  • Anonymous

    Is it surprising that these liberal union bosses want to add another notch in their belt?
    They have to get these minions from where ever. They could care less about these student/players. They just see “big” money in union dues. These kids are already being filled with liberal BS from their professors and are punished if they refuse to go along with the progressive agenda.
    These kids most likely are getting FREE college tuition for playing. Fans should STOP going to these games and then see where these greedy athletes money will come from.

  • Anonymous

    Athletes playing for university-based teams are not considered employees by any legal body. They haven’t been since 1953, when the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a determination by the state Industrial Commission that a football player at the University of Denver was an “employee” within the context of the Colorado workers’ compensation statute.

    As a result, the university was responsible to provide workers’ compensation for his football injuries. The NCAA responded by coining the term “student-athlete” and mandating its use by universities. Use of that term, and other efforts to enforce the idea that athletes cannot also be employees, ramped up as the NCAA a few years later introduced athletic scholarships, a form of compensation for services provided.

    This is taken from

    The reaction is understandable, however, it is disappointing that Pat and Stu don’t even discuss why the players are attempting to form a union and stop only at the pay for play aspect.
    The players also want their scholarship guaranteed, so if they get hurt and can’t play anymore they don’t lose their scholarship.

  • Anonymous

    Does this mean the players will have to file income tax returns and claim the value of their scholarships and other perks as income?

    • Guardian

      If they are classified as employees, they must file with the IRS for anything of value received, scholarship, living subsidy, perks etc..

  • landofaahs

    As part of this new Union, I demand that at least 50% of all athletes be White, short, Jewish, conservative, ugly, attractive, black, old, young…you get my point by now, however I deliberately left out liberal/progressive/democrat. Because.. they are what they are. LOL

  • Al Bumen

    Hussein Obama lied on June 28, 2012 when he claimed that Americans who already have health insurance would be able to keep it.

  • Joe

    These athletes aren’t getting an education as you or I would describe. They are encouraged by their coaches to take dumbed down courses so they can spend more time practicing and less time studying. They’re being cheated out of their time and the educational experiences and skills that college is suppose to give them. Also they’re not looking to get payed they just want less practice hours and more emphasis on school work so they can get a decent education. After all less than 1% of them will actually get to the pros.

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately that attitude is not just college. It’s in the high schools too. My daughter has just decided not to play soccer next year in high school because the coach just had a discussion with them telling them that he doesn’t want them taking any dual credit (classes through a local college where they get both high school and college credit) because they need to be more dedicated to soccer than to classes.

      • Joe

        There’s a similar dual credit deal where I went to high school. It’s sad that this thinking has penetrated the high school area as well. I’m glad she made the right choice though, school studies should always come before extra-curriculars. If you look around there may be rec leagues or something.

  • Anonymous

    Does a reduction of grades mean a reduction of pay? Or, do we have “income equality” for all? Do we include the cheerleaders? How about physically challenged students? Maybe smart students should get paid — don’t they add to the colleges’ prestige? Gotta be “fair”.

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