As expected, Northwestern University on Wednesday filed a brief asking the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington to review a regional NLRB decision that football players are employees of the institution and should be allowed to unionize. “Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first,” the brief says. “Based on the testimony of a single player, the regional director described Northwestern’s football program in a way that is unrecognizable from the evidence actually presented at the hearing.”
The brief notes that Northwestern awards four-year athletic scholarships (optional and uncommon, under NCAA rules, which allow one-year renewable ones), and provides primary or secondary medical coverage for all athletes for up to a year after their eligibility expires. The brief also says the majority of rules that athletes must follow (regarding things like hazing, academic dishonesty and drug use) apply to the student body at large.
The athletes’ secret ballot vote to unionize under the College Athletes Players Association is scheduled for April 25, but could be delayed if the full NLRB issues a stay on the regional decision.