Today the National Labor Relations Board reversed a decision from their Chicago office in 2014, which had allowed Northwestern Wildcats student-athletes the option to unionize. Many experts had expected the NLRB to stand by the previous decision, which would have allowed other private universities the same option. However, the decision shouldn't be considered a victory for the NCAA just yet, as it seems as though this is the NLRB passing on the final decision.
Former NLRB chair Bill Gould on today's Northwestern CFB unionization decision: "It means the Board has punted."— Liz Mullen (@SBJLizMullen) August 17, 2015
Short term win for the NCAA, as NLRB punts on unionization issue: http://t.co/2H1gyxLT96 Just moves the fight to another venue.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) August 17, 2015
A sticking point for the NLRB was supporting a decision that could "upset the competitive balance" and would impact public universities, which is not an area where they hold jurisdiction. The decision also ignored one of the basic questions raised by Northwestern's attempt, which is "Are student-athletes University employees?"
College Athletes Players Associaion President Ramogi Huma finds the decision disappointing, but still thinks the process has benefited student-athletes because of the attention it has brought to the issues.
"I think it was one of the best decisions that I made in this fight and it's because I did it the other way for 14 years and really didn't see much progress," he said. "What's gone on in the last year is night and day. Instead of the NCAA trying to make excuses denying players' rights, you see (NCAA president) Mark Emmert basically taking our side and going down our platform and saying these are the things we hope to accomplish."
As a private University, Syracuse Orange student-athletes could still attempt a unionization attempt on their own, but today's decision makes that highly unlikely. Having a union could have allowed the athletes to pursue greater medical benefits, and given them a more powerful voice in terms of things like practice hours, and being actually you know compensated for the time spent on their athletic obligations. The hope is that the national attention that this case, and others, have received have led to a more open discussion among the NCAA schools, and will continue the work being done to address student-athlete concerns in the nearly billion-dollar industry that is college athletics.
Of course, the NCAA once again shows that they don't really get things with this response:
The NLRB's decision to reject jurisdiction and dismiss the union petition in the Northwestern case is appropriate. pic.twitter.com/5Ar0ZqMPnt— NCAA (@NCAA) August 17, 2015
Let's break down these ground-breaking strides that NCAA is making to benefit student-athletes:
- Multi-year scholarships: we are finally stopping coaches from pulling scholarships for whatever reason, now they have to show why the student didn't meet expectations to take away money.
- Free education for former athletes, aka "The APR Bonus Point". We'll let you come back to finish your degree for free and keep our team away from NCAA APR sanctions at the same time. Win-Win.
- Unlimited Meals, well on this point the student-athlete finally has a leg up on the Texas Longhorns coaching staff.
The National Labor Relations Board decision probably ends the idea that student-athletes will attempt to unionize. Will this stop the improvements being made in terms of student-athlete welfare, or will the NCAA continue to make progress to try and avoid future legal battles?