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NCAA files brief opposing union

While not a party to the Northwestern University student-athlete union petition, the NCAA today filed an amicus brief with the National Labor Relations Board. The brief supports Northwestern’s appeal of the ruling by a regional director of the NLRB that students on their football team receiving an athletics scholarship are university employees who are eligible to unionize.

“Over past 70 years, more than a million student-athletes have received athletics scholarships, and no legal entity has determined that these scholarships transform students into employees under the National Labor Relations Act,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “There is no legitimate reason that they should be considered such today. While there certainly are improvements to be made to the college model of sports, transforming the relationship between students and their university to an employment relationship is not the answer.”  

As noted in the brief, scholarship student-athletes are not merely primarily students, they are exclusively students because both of their major activities – academics and athletics – are integral components of a university’s educational program. Maintaining the collegiate model of athletics, which is uniquely American, is crucial to preserving an environment where participation in sports is properly integrated into the total educational experience and plays an appropriate role in relation to the students’ academic development.

“Affirming the Regional Director’s decision will negatively impact all football players at Northwestern, the hundreds of student-athletes at Northwestern who are not football players, and potentially the millions of present and future student-athletes in all sports across America,” Remy said.