NLRB Rules Against College Football Players

Ohio State Buckeyes

Well the college football season will soon be upon us and here in Florida as well as in the rest of the country the hysteria will continue until the national champion is crowned.  Having attended City University of New York at night I can take college football or leave it. I have no loyalties.

Not so with fans of the Gators, the ‘Noles or the ‘Canes – these folk take their college football seriously.

The equivalent of the Dictatorship of the One Percent  in college football (as well as hoops) is the N.C.A.A., a “non-profit” whose President earns in the millions. The most recent T.V. contracts for the rights to televise games in both sports is in the billions of dollars. If frisbee was a money making sport, the NCAA and the colleges would organize a league, a schedule, hire coaches and hold a Frisbee National Championship.

In other words, it’s all about the money.

The coaches at the “name” football and basketball schools annually earn in the  millions. They get paid that much because their schools are making money and can afford to pay them. I read somewhere recently that in 40 of the 50 states the highest paid state employee is the coach of the state university football or basketball team.

Nice gig.

Everyone, but everyone connected with college football and hoops is making money – everyone that is except the players.

Back in the day, college football players would sneak off on weekends to earn a few bucks playing on semi-pro teams under aliases. No more. “Amateurism” rules.  Even the Olympic Committee gave that one up.   High level college players have  gotten in a heap of trouble for autographing some footballs and getting paid of it – while the coach made millions.

The term “student athlete” came about in the 1950s in a court case – when the widow of Ray Dennison, who had died from a head injury received while playing football in Colorado for the Fort Lewis A&M Aggies, filed for workers’-compensation death benefits.

Did his football scholarship make the fatal collision a “work-related” accident? Was he a school employee, like his peers who worked part-time as teaching assistants and bookstore cashiers? Or was he a fluke victim of extracurricular pursuits?

Given the hundreds of incapacitating injuries to college athletes each year, the answers to these questions had enormous consequences. Critically, the NCAA position was determined only by its member institutions—the colleges and universities, plus their athletic conferences—as students themselves have never possessed NCAA representation or a vote.

Practical interest turned the NCAA vigorously against Dennison, and the Supreme Court of Colorado ultimately agreed with the school’s contention that he was not eligible for benefits, since the college was “not in the football business.”  Right.

The NCAA enshrined the term “student athlete” into the rules and regulations. “The term student-athlete was deliberately ambiguous. College players were not students at play (which might understate their athletic obligations under their contract), nor were they just athletes in college (which might imply they were professionals). That they were high-performance athletes meant they could be forgiven for not meeting the academic standards of their peers which many times they did not; steered to “easy” coursework.   That they were “students” meant they did not have to be compensated, ever, for anything more than the cost of their studies.

Student-athlete became the NCAA’s signature term, repeated constantly in and out of courtrooms.

Yup. The only participants not making money are the players – the “student athletes”, who are not represented in the halls of the NCAA.

Now lets face it – star high school football players do not go to college for the education. They go for a chance, albeit a slim one, to play in the NFL. Only 3% of college footballers will ever play one down in a NFL game. No matter. They have a dream of playing in the NFL with all of the rewards that brings.

The only way to the NFL is through the college ranks – the colleges are the de-facto minor leagues of the pro game. In fact, the NFL will not draft a player sooner than three years from his high school graduation – and the NFL has a Supreme Court decision supporting their right to do so.

This forces high school players into the plantation system of college football. After all, why should the NFL run a salaried minor league for player development when the colleges are doing such a good job of it – and doing it real cheap.

The seminal issue is this: Should a majority of the nation’s most prestigious and/or largest universities serve as a de facto minor league for the National Football League, an organization that, by the way, not only enjoys tax-exempt status but can also afford to pay its commissioner, Roger Goodell, an annual salary of $43 million?

The arrangement between college football and the NFL prevents a young talented player from earning what his talents are worth in the open market  – he is virtually required to do his “time” in college football, risking serious injury and for little reward before the possibility, the one shot of being able to cash in.  It is classic restraint of trade.  Of course the NCAA and anti-union Republicans don’t see it that way.

On April 25 of last year, members of the Northwestern Wildcat football team were afforded the opportunity to vote on whether or not to form a union, a ballot that came about after a former teammate, senior quarterback Kain Colter, petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to recognize scholarship football players as employees.

“Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship,” Colter said at the time. “No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”

And the only way players can have a union is if the NLRB recognizes them as employees. In March, after listening to testimony from both Colter and Northwestern, NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr acceded to Colter’s point of view. In a 24-page decision Ohr ruled that scholarship football players are employees and thus have the right to unionize. “Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation, are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees” wrote Ohr.  Northwestern has appealed to the NLRB in Washington.

Well the “student-athletes” lost.  Last week the National Labor Relations Board announced Monday that it will not uphold the March 2014 ruling which said Northwestern’s football players are university employees.

As a result of the decision, Northwestern’s players will not be able to unionize.

According to Bloomberg, the NLRB reached a unanimous decision in a 16-page opinion that said granting the players’ petition would “not promote uniformity and stability in labor relations.” Additionally, the NLRB decided that the ability for Northwestern’s players to form a union would alter the “competitive practice” because other teams would have a different set of rules and would not have the ability to collectively bargain.

Note that the rejection by the NLRB does not argue the student-athlete crap spouted by the NCAA; it bases it’s decision on the issue of “competitive practice” (not all schools might have unions) and “stability” (Heaven forbid we might have instability!  There’s a lot of money at stake!).

The government ruled that college football players are not “employees” of the university notwithstanding that (1) they are under contract (2) they are “paid” in the form of free tuition, room and board and (3) according to Peter Sung Ohr “Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation, are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees”.

“In what NLRB officials called a “very narrow decision,” the board declined to address whether the players are employees at Northwestern and ruled rather on whether granting their petition would serve the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act”

Next time the coach drops a player for missing a meeting and forces him to leave school because he is not playing under contract let’s argue again whether  said “student” is an employee or not.  IMHO the true “student athlete” is the one who plays college football or hoops and is NOT on a sports scholarship – is NOT being paid the minimum wage of tuition, room and board.  All the others are employees.

However big money wins again.  What’s new?  On to the tailgate party!!




About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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2 Responses to NLRB Rules Against College Football Players

  1. sojourner says:

    It always was a money making business, but more locally so than nationally years ago. Your top image here, just happens to be from my Alma Mater, OSU.

    The football team, in particular, has always been a big money maker for small business in Columbus. But over the last thirty years, in particular, the corporations, in cahoots with the NCAA, college presidents/boards and NFL, have completely kidnapped and basically destroyed what amateurism was there before.

    I agree, if anyone should be compensated with all the billions being made on college football these days, it should be the players. And you can add ESPN, cable and the networks to the list of those raking in the bucks off of these young men as well.

    I came from a family that had no interest in sports whatsoever. But I picked up the love of the game in the late 1950s, when the Cleveland Browns’ linemen made $300 bucks a game and worked in the steel mills in the off season. I didn’t become an OSU or college fan until my freshman year, when Woody’s team won the national championship.

    I hate what college sports have become, just like I hate everything else the corporate pigs lay their shit stained hands on. They’ve completely destroyed basketball, with the one year and done deal, not that I care. I hate basketball. But I’m sure the elite swine will completely destroy college football as well, they have almost done it right now, as far as I am concerned. But if they go to a one and done in football. there will be no college level left. And you are absolutely right, at the top level of the sport in college, OSU, Notre Dame and the like are nothing but farm teams for the NFL.

    These kids are acting as professionals these days, not amateurs, and so they should be compensated as pros! But this will never happen, and we both know why! MONEY and POWER are god in Merica!


  2. beetleypete says:

    Sorry, Frank. American Football goes right over my head. But professional sport is the same the world over, whatever the game. It’s all about the money, the advertising, and TV air time. It has lost the very essence of the fair play and athleticism it set out with originally.
    Best wishes, Pete.


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