NCAA Weighs in on NRLB Decision at Northwestern University

NCAA Football Player

The NCAA has finally broken its silence on the NRLB decision at Northwestern University.  Last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) determined that Northwestern University football players had a right to form a union.  Players voted on whether or not to unionize back in April 2014, but the results of vote have been kept confidential, pending appeal. Results of this decision were wide-ranging, and many experts are predicting that the NRLB decision could open the door to paying athletes to play college football.

The NCAA has finally spoken out on the matter, filing an amicus brief on July 3, in support of Northwestern University’s appeal to overturn the initial NRLB decision.  The brief joins others from professional sports unions including the National Hockey League, the National Football League, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball League, and Major League Baseball, all of whom support college player efforts to unionize.  Several members of Congress have also weighed in, arguing that the players should not be entitled to unionize because they lack status as “employees”under the law, which would entitle them to collective bargaining rights.

According to CBS Sports, the NCAA’s amicus brief argued that “declaring college athletes employees should have many ‘far-reaching and destructive consequences’” including “marginalizing the importance of educational programs,” “undercutting” the distinction between college sports and their professional counterparts, “undermining” the grand tradition of “amateurism,” and becoming potentially more important than academics to colleges and universities in making leadership decisions.  CBS Sports also reports that the NCAA raised a number of potentially damaging hypothetical consequences that might complicate student-athlete drug testing, academic suspensions, player strikes, and have tax implications for colleges and universities.

Experts will be watching as the dialogue on paying college athletes continues to unfold.

With more than 35 years of experience representing professional athletes, individuals and businesses in the areas of sports law and business litigation, James J. “Jim” Thomas II is recognized as an expert across Georgia.  If you or your business needs assistance in sports law, business ventures, handling complex business litigation, or in the analysis, evaluation, and resolution of existing and potential litigation in sports law cases, give Jim a call at 404-869-5248 or email him today to set up a consultation.

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