What Will Unionized Athletes Mean For Colleges?


The National Labor Relations Board says college football players are not “students.” Many would agree. It took the NLRB to declare them “employees.”

Rick Jensen

Northwestern University, whose fencing teams scored more points per season than their football teams not too long ago, is the venue for the big union’s big play to unionize every scholarship football player in the country.

The scheme is being funded by a group calling itself the College Athletic Players Association, funded in turn by the United Steelworkers Union.

The NLRB liked the argument that the “football players primarily have an economic relationship with the university, which controls and directs their daily activities and compensates them in the form of scholarships.”

“The record makes clear that the employer’s scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school.”

Moreover, they argue, a scholarship is actually a salary and because football players are so busy with football, they don’t have enough time for studies.

So much for simply earning the chance to achieve a college education in return for the school taking a chance at national brand exposure.

Remember, this is the very left-wing NLRB that tried desperately to stop Boeing from escaping union strikes every three years by building a plant in South Carolina.

Non-athlete students complain and joke about the scholarship jocks, snickering about their tutors and study halls to maintain grades. The argument that football players have to attend study halls if their grades slip indicates they are actually employees of the school was also accepted by the NLRB. So are dorm resident assistants who get a free room also employees? Of course! Unionize them! Maybe they can pay dues by sharing a percentage of their Doritos.

Will all other scholarship students be considered employees? By this logic, the answer is, “yes.” If a student is required to perform any function in return for receiving any discount for attending a college or university, then they would be an employee.

In the case of a scholarship based on academic achievement, that student would be required to attend classes, pass exams and maintain a minimum GPA to keep the scholarship. They would likely be asked to attend university social events and encourage other prospective students to attend the school. You see, these students also have an economic relationship with the university, so by the NLRB logic, they need to pay dues to a union, too.

As the NLRB emphasizes their opinion that student athletes are selected by athletic prowess first and scholastic ability second, this would obviously apply to every one of the student athletes with any size scholarship at every college and university in the country.

This has the potential to bring in millions of dollars for unions in dues, whether they’re paid by the institutions or the students themselves.

Especially during a time when union membership is waning, this is huge!

The unions can promise millions in compensation for twisted ankles, hurt feelings, mediation representation when a professor gives a grade the athlete feels is unfair, unemployment benefits during winter, spring and summer breaks, contractual languages that make it impossible for a coach to move a struggling running back to the bench or – gasp – a position prohibited by Collegiate Running Back Local 34.

Yes, they’ll have all sorts of privileges… er… rights… that non-scholarship athletes and students haven’t “earned” simply because they’re more proficient in college scholastics than the union jocks.

This creates a whole new “class” of student with political and financial clout never before experienced on college campuses.

But will it improve the FBS College Football Players Graduation rate to better than 58 percent?

Or does this end the goal of student athletes actually graduating?

More important, it ends the University of Alabama’s reign as the only professional college football team in America.

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