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National Labor Board Rules Northwestern University Football Players can Unionize

jedkat's picture
March 26, 2014 at 3:39pm
47 Comments
daveyt11's picture

Wow...this will be a gamechanger. 

+1 HS
BucksFan2000's picture

Wait until all college football players read this, they'll all want in on the action.  And if someone teaches SEC players to read, then it's definitely going to get real.

+12 HS
OSUStu's picture

This is going to get appealed to the D.C. NLRB, then the courts, then maybe the Supreme Court.  There is a long way to go. 

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

+1 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Grandpa, tell me again, where you were when college football changed forever . . .

Whether this is good or bad, hold on to your butts.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+5 HS
AndyVance's picture

Cue the music...

 

+2 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

More like "Grandpa what was this 'college football' thing you talk about?"

+2 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Isn't this really facts specific, in that it would really only apply to private schools? So, Notre Dame, Stanford, Vandy, Duke, etc. might be most affected I believe.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+3 HS
TheBadOwl's picture

If it's only for private schools, this will really help Notre Dame and USC, which is great for college football. 

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

Buckeye Knight's picture

I'm not a tax guy or lawyer, but I would think there are so many legal and tax implications to this that it's a GIANT can of worms that the players don't have a clue about.

 

Will they be taxed on their tuition, books, tutors, medical support and supplies, free food, travel, tickets for family to games, etc.???

+10 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Short answer: No.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+2 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

More accurately the short answer is "nobody knows for certain".

The current tax code states:
"A scholarship or fellowship is tax free only to the extent:
- It does not represent payment for teaching, research, or other services required as a condition for receiving the scholarship."

There are already tax attorneys making the argument that an "employee athlete" would certainly fall under 'other services'.

+2 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Do they not also receive other ancillary benefits from the school? Tutors, etc. Do not these services also qualify as compensation?

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

jenks's picture

Would it not be considered a qualified tuition reduction, as for any other employee who  goes (or whos kids) go for free?

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

+1 Knight. Was going there with my comment and you said it best. Believe me, you ain't "workin" unless you are paying taxes. 

Li Xiao Buckeye's picture

"Is this the beginning of the end?!?!?, Will the game of college football be changed forever?!?!?  How will the athletic directors of the world escape this time?!?!?!...  Tune in next week to another exciting episode of As the World (of college football) Burns"  Starring Gene "I make a million every time synchronized swimming wins a 'natty" Smith

I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine. - Bruce Lee

+1 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

I think the players are very short-sighted on this. I really hope it doesn't stick. While they seem to have good intentions, this doesn't turn out well. 

+4 HS
BierStube's picture

Wait until they get their union dues!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+2 HS
RuGettinIt's picture

Yah you betcha, a new pot o gold for the labor unions....be careful what you wish for "Student" athletes....

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

There's a joke to be had here regarding filing a grievance and the way Ohio State beat Northwestern last year, but I'm going to let it go.

I am not very smart, but I recognize that I am not very smart.

+3 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

not convinced this means much…For example, if they players decide to exercise a strike until they feel they've received fair payment, the school could possibly just rescind their scholarships and give them to other, perhaps less talented, student athletes. I agree with some who have mentioned it thus far that this could actually cause more harm than good to these players. This may seem like a big deal on paper, IMO, its much more dangerous for those involved than they'd like to think.

+2 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

Absolutely. This boils down to not realizing how good they already have it. For the sake of argument we'll say tuition, room and board, medical expenses, and coaching are worth 50k a year. Where else is a kid pursued from high school to earn that?

+3 HS
lamplighter's picture

if considered employees, anything they receive could be considered income, including tuition, room, board,, medical care, etc, and therefore taxable at fair market value.  Does that sound right? Definitely not a tax expert

 

jenks's picture

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/117

Been a while since I studied tax, but I don't think this practically changes anything. It was income (in the broad sense) before and still would be now. There are just exceptions/rules for how it is treated.

+1 HS
BassDropper's picture

The only way this should work is, if the athletes are "employees" they should be treated like employees. Just like in any other job, if you aren't performing up to the standards of the job, you get fired. If that was the case, all of the sudden these athletes who want to be paid will start to change their tune. 

I'm neither for or against this argument. I see both sides of the argument equally, and I'm really torn on this subject because I want to have an opinion and go one way or the other. But, like I said, the only way this SHOULD work is what I stated above. 

DIRECTIONER

+2 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

If they are employees, how about compensating them, but also not giving them a scholarship. If the scholarship is not enough, and they want to dip into the funds used for other sports, derived from their revenue, then pay them, but do not compensate them additionally with a scholarship. Let's see how that works out for them.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

libera's picture

Even if it becomes a reality, I predict a very short life to the movement. Unions operate at National (limited more global issues), state, and local levels. Because of the number of and size of the athletic departments of individual schools, there can never be a true consensus among the union members what can be globally achieved among the various schools, because of the budget constraints of each school. Many states have a right to work law which prohibits mandatory union membership. Union membership will never gain momentum at the smaller D1 schools as the students will never have a real leverage since most of those athletic departments operate at a deficit and rely on additional funding from the academic side of the school to keep the athletic department operational. In those few schools like Ohio State there will be tremendous in-fighting among the revenue making athletes (around 100 scholarship athletes) and the non-revenue making athletes (around 900) that the membership in the union will quickly dwindle.

But really, I think the union movement will get shot down by the courts before it gets that far.

 

 

libera

+2 HS
jenks's picture

Having just skimmed the NLRB ruling, it appears to only apply to football players. It also doesn't appear that the criteria used in the decision would lead every athlete to being included as an employee, although that's just based on a cursory review. Moreover, I would assume all eligible athletes would have to be together, but perhaps they could be separated by sport with their own CBAs.

+2 HS
teddyballgame's picture

As a fan it's natural to worry a little bit about the future of the game, but this is probably an idea whose time has come...

College athletics have blown up into something bigger than ever envisioned.  It's about time the players organized and start to have a say in things.

Funny how so many people who aren't even involved beyond sitting on their couching and feeling entitled to entertainment can have such strong feelings on this kind of stuff.

+2 HS
BuckGnome's picture

This is just a symptom of a larger phenomenon.  For better or worse, more and more $$$ is being pumped into college football.  It is a growing multibillion dollar industry.  This is 2014, and sooner or later, the players are going to get theirs.  Be it this, the Ed O'bannon case, or something else, big changes are in store for the NCAA's model of 'amateurism.'

+3 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

The real question is who will the B1G invite to replace Northwestern once it goes the Chicago route & drops football.

jamesrbrown322's picture

Based on how stupid the two most recent additions were, I say Harvard.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

buckskin's picture

Colter admitted in testimony that he receives $75,000 a year in benefits.  That's a darn good "salary" to play a GAME that he (wait for it) CHOSE to play.  He complains of not having enough time to fulfill his academic requirements, that is the choice each student athlete makes.  It must not be too hard, because NU graduates 97% of their players.   If the unionized players would strike to get a college to meet their demands, I could easily envision that college shutting down their football program, just to play hardball.  No one is forcing them to field a team, then what?  I agree with many of the statements above, the players better tread carefully because this could really hurt them down the road.  One poster used the term short sighted for the players and that was the 1st thing I thought of when I heard this story. 

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

So walk-ons, as the ruling applies the theory that a scholarship is payment for services, and therefore the players are employees, are not included in this correct?

This whole situation is one that I do not think the players really thought out well. The long term effects on the non-revenue sports, especially due to Title IX, are significant. Then again, NW and other private schools may not have that many varsity sports anyway.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Go1Bucks's picture

It'll never last.  If they acknowledge football players as a union, then it'll be students next.  Then we won't have public schools, they will be corporations.  All states will go to right to work, (hire and fire all players) and then we won't need the NCAA and that won't stand :-P

Go Bucks!

DoubleB's picture

Hearing Kain Colter, who is well spoken, whine and complain in an interview this morning was eye opening. He's complaining that players HAVE to spend time on football and don't have as much time for academics. That they need more help with school. He complained that they HAVE to go to practice and meetings and can't schedule classes during that time. Basically he's complaining that class comes second to football.

Ok then Kain feel free to quit football and pay for school like the rest of us. According to the Northwestern website it'll run you about $63,000 a year. Go take a loan(s) like the rest of us and pay for your education for the next 20 years.

His point about not getting enough "help" with academics makes me sick. Athletes get extra tutoring and benefits that other students simply don't have access too, and he wants MORE? Are you kidding me? Anything you want in life you have to work for. Welcome to the real world.

As for being employees, like may others I'm wondering if the IRS will have something to say about that...

I was tired of trying to work my way around the back, so I just ran him over.
-Joey Bosa

+1 HS
cdub4's picture

You are whining in a sense also. You don't HAVE to go to college. No one is forcing YOU to take a loan to pay for school. You can also do what Colter did, work hard and earn an athletic scholarship and get the benefits he worked hard to earn.

Argument works both ways.

+3 HS
DoubleB's picture

Fair enough good points I didn't have to go to college.

Also PS there is no amount of hard work that would've gotten me an athletic scholarship. :D  Academic however would've been attainable if teenage me had understood what hard work really was.  It really just grinds my gears and makes me worry about the future of college football.

I was tired of trying to work my way around the back, so I just ran him over.
-Joey Bosa

BuckToAsT's picture

If football players are "employees" because they receive "grants in aid," then I was also an employee of both my undergraduate and graduate universities.  I too received "grants in aid;" I too had restrictions on what I could and could not do in order to maintain my "grants in aid;" I too had less liberties than other students; I too had to spend countless hours working towards keeping my "grants in aid."

Guess I should've unionized.

 

+1 HS
Jack Fu's picture

Northwestern football players proved that they provided a service to the university, generating an average of $26 million dollars in revenue per year. Can you prove that you provided a similar service? If not, I don't think you could have met the definition of "employee."

Oyster's picture

Hold on, of that 26 million, how much of that can be attributed to the NU players and how much to the competition?  How many people went to the night game against OSU that were NU fans and how many OSU fans made the trip because they knew there would be tickets available?

Jack Fu's picture

Who cares? Their labor generated the money that went to the university, be it through ticket sales, TV contracts, apparel sales, whatever.

-1 HS
Joebobb's picture

At the end of the day, the Universities will still come out on top. If the appeal loses, the NLRB will write rules establishing what defines a student athlete employment relationship and the schools/NCAA will come up with a new guideline for the student athlete to get around the rule. Problem solved. Not much to see there.  This does little to address the underlying issue of college athletes not being able to receive compensation for the contributions to the schools.

 

BucksFan2000's picture

Regardless of how this case (or the O'Bannon case) goes, does anyone actually envision a scenario where Ohio State football ceases to exist?

The current model can't be sustained.  Football players that draw 100,000 fans are currently given the same scholarship as athletes that draw a few dozen fans.  It's not a normal system.

I guess I'm still bitter about OSU getting raked over the coals for the tattoo "scandal", yet schools like UNC which clearly fixed grades get nothing.  And how many pics have we seen of Alabama players sleeping through class?  Whatever happens, the current system burned us anyway so good riddance.

+1 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

They gonna pay dues and put up with all the stupid rules? I thought the army had some dumbass rules; until I became a teamster, I guess I really had no idea.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

-1 HS
Gray Box's picture

Michael Bennett and Larry Johnson Sr. React to Northwestern Unionization Decision: 

sivaDavis's picture

I think I agree that players deserve a very small piece of the pie but this is the wrong way to go about it. Stipends for example, if you need money for food, or a little spending money, you tap into your stipend. You have a girlfriend? Wanna take her out? Tap into your stipend. Every player on the team should have a stipend. Same amount, no differentiating.

If you feel like you should be getting paid the big bucks for playing football, declare for the NFL draft. You're in college getting a free education that can help you out later in life. You're playing at a high level program that can help you out later in life, in football by getting exposure to NFL coaches and scouts. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong but I'm just a random poster on 11W.

If I was the AD at Northwestern, I would say well, drop all the football scholarships and make them pay for their education.. Maybe that's just me.

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

Seattle Linga's picture

This can get very confusing if you don't pay attention to all the deets.