Northwestern University football players on scholarship are employees of the school and therefore entitled to hold an election to decide whether to unionize, an official of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday.
The stunning decision, coming after a push by former quarterback Kain Colter backed by organized labor, has the potential to shake up the world of big-time sports.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and universities set the rules and cut the lucrative deals with TV and sponsors, exerting near total control over the activities of players known as "student athletes." But now those football players, at least at Northwestern, are employees too and may seek collective bargaining status, according to the 24-page ruling by Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the NLRB.
I can't wait for the students who are behind this, now that they have received their wish to be declared employees, to pay back taxes on their scholarship, in-kind income. Over four years, that would be something like $50K for a student at a private, mid-five figure tuition university like Northwestern. Good luck varsity athletes, figuring out how to finance that without going into debt while you are in college.
If there are issues or problems the athletes wanted the university to address there is nothing, other than an absence of courage and conviction, that would stop the students from acting collectively without the backing of federal government bureaucrats. Good faith, self help is a proven method.
In the us versus them institution of federalized unionism, you can pretty much expect the beneficence of Northwestern athletic department donors will fade away.
If the NLRB decision is upheld, and student athletes at Northwestern and other scholarship granting sports programs decide to unionize, they will find their interactions with coaches and the university will be governed by union bosses not of their own choosing.
This will not end well. Be careful of what you wish for.