Kevin Trahan, USA TODAY
(USA Today) — After a year-and-a-half of uncertainty, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Division I football players at Northwestern University can’t unionize, declining to assert jurisdiction and dismissing the petition to unionize.
The decision is a major win for Northwestern, which fought fiercely to avoid its players from being designated employees, which would have allowed them to engage in collective bargaining with the university. This ruling was important for the university, which does not have to deal with the reality that its student-athletes would actually be employees.
“After careful consideration of the record and arguments of the parties and amici, we have determined that, even if the scholarship players were statutory employees (which, again, is an issue we do not decide), it would not effectuate the policies of the (National Labor Relations) Act to assert jurisdiction,” the board wrote. “Our decision is primarily premised on a finding that, because of the nature of sports leagues (namely the control exercised by the leagues over the individual teams) and the composition and structure of FBS football (in which the overwhelming majority of competitors are public colleges and universities over which the Board cannot assert jurisdiction), it would not promote stability in labor relations to assert jurisdiction in this case.”
Players’ ballots were sealed pending the appeal.