Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board ruled today that Northwestern football players who receive scholarships qualify as employees and can unionize, ESPN reported.
NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr, who oversees a region that includes parts of Illinois and Indiana, ruled that players can vote on whether they want the College Athletes Players Association to represent them. CAPA brought the case to the NLRB with former quarterback Kain Colter and the United Steelworkers Union.
“I find that the Employer’s football players who receive scholarships fall squarely within the Act’s broad definition of ‘employee’ when one considers the common law definition of ‘employee,’” Ohr’s ruling read. “However, I find that the walk-ons do not meet the definition of ‘employee’ for the fundamental reason that they do not receive compensation for the athletic services that they perform.”
Ohr also mentioned the “extraordinary time demands” athletes face and the assistance players must receive to “succeed academically (or at least, maintain the required minimum grade point average)” in his ruling.
In response to the ruling, Colter tweeted, “So proud of my teammates, Ramogi, lawyers, and supporters around the nation! This is a HUGE win for ALL college athletes!"
Northwestern’s response stated an intent to appeal the decision to the full NLRB in Washington.
"While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director's opinion, we disagree with it," the statement read. "Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."