Skip to main content

Northwestern athletes win NLRB case, ruled to be employees

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter lobbies to join the newly formed College Athletics Players Association. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter lobbies to the newly formed College Athletes Association. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Northwestern University athletes won their case before the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday and were ruled to be employees eligible to form a union.

The win on March 26 effectively gives the student-athletes collective bargaining rights. The school said on Wednesday afternoon that it would release a statement soon but that the university will in fact appeal, according to a tweet from NCAA reporter Allie Grasgreen. The official ruling between Northwestern University -- the employer -- and CAPA -- the petitioner -- can be found here.

The landmark ruling affects only students at private universities. State university college athletes who want to unionize must appeal to their state's labor board. The five points attorneys for CAPA argued for why NU athletes should be considered employees are as follows, according to Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated:

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

Football players at Northwestern are compensated for a service (i.e. football) with athletics-based grants-in-aid, or scholarships; they have supervisors (i.e. coaches) who control their schedules and monitor what they say on social media; they must abide by certain rules and regulations, and are held to different standards than other students; they can have their compensation taken away (i.e. have their scholarship revoked) for violating those rules and lose their jobs (i.e. their spots in the lineup) if they skip practices or games; and they have a contract (i.e. an athletic tender agreement) that stipulates what they must do to maintain their scholarship.

CAPA had been looking for "guaranteed coverage for injuries during sanctioned competition," according to Johnson, as well as a "trust fund" to subsidize former players who want to continue their education.  It had also lobbied for less contact during scrimmages and practices in addition to concussion experts on the sidelines during games who are not in any way affiliated with the school.

NU quarterback Kain Colter tweeted his excitement following the breaking news, saying he's proud of his teammates and considers it a "huge win for all college athletes."

NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy has responded that the association is unhappy with the ruling, and emphasized that they were not a part of the NLRB hearing,

While not a party to the proceeding, the NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees.

SI WIRE: Florida State’s Jameis Winston involved in bench-clearing brawl