Q&A with Leonard Court
College football team’s efforts to unionize could change sports
Q: The football team at Northwestern University petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to let the team have a federally sponsored election to see if they want to be represented by a union. What are their chances of success?
A: In order for the NLRB to grant the petition, the NLRB must decide that the players are employees of the university.
Q: What arguments do the players have on their side?
A: The players will argue that their scholarships are compensation for their services to the university. Often the value of a four-year full scholarship exceeds $100,000. The players do not play for anyone other than the university.
Q: What will the university argue?
A: The university will state that the players are student-athletes, not employees. The university will argue that the players are no different than other students who are receiving scholarships, such as band members or students on academic scholarships.
Q: What will it mean to college sports if the Northwestern players are successful?
A: If the players prevail and vote for a union, then the university must bargain in good faith with the union concerning all wages, hours and working conditions. This could include payments to players, limits on practice times and even whether the university can have two-a-day practices in the preseason. This could be in direct conflict with NCAA rules concerning how players are treated and what compensation players can receive. Success by the Northwestern players could completely change the face of college sports. This is a case that all college sports fans should follow.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER