In a landmark decision for college athletics, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that Northwestern University scholarship football players are employees of the school and therefore should be able to form the nation’s first-ever college players union. Northwestern officials said the school plans to appeal the decision, which would have sweeping implications for NCAA football and potentially other sports as well.
In the ruling, Peter Ohr contradicted the long-standing NCAA position that college athletes are students first and athletes second. Ohr said the athletes’ commitment of 50 to 60 hours a week during training camp and 40 to 50 hours a week during the football season was evidence that they are athletes first and students second.
The NCAA said it was disappointed with the decision and that it disagrees with the finding that student-athletes are employees of a university.
The decision applies only to private universities, raising questions about how leagues with both private and public universities would address having some players who are represented by unions and some who are not.
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter led the effort to form a union. He applauded the decision on Twitter, saying it was “a huge win for all college athletes.”
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