Ruling Could Pave Way For Student-Athlete Unions

Football players at Northwestern University will be allowed to form a union after a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday.
Posted at 6:49 PM, Mar 26, 2014

The debate over paying college athletes just took a whole new twist and a favorable one for the students. 

"The National Labor Relations Board rules in favor of Northwestern football players saying they have the right to form a union as employees of the university." (Via Fox Sports

" this could mean that these student athletes have the right to fight to get paid here." (Via CNN

Presiding judge Peter Sung Ohr said it was clear that Northwestern recruited the players for their football prowess, "not because of their academic achievement in high school." (Via Flickr / Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar​)

WBBM broke down the two sides of the argument, "Union lawyers argued the Big Ten school’s football players are part of a commercial enterprise that generates hefty profits through their labor. ... Northwestern argued that college athletes are students and can’t be put in the same category as factory workers." 

A writer for the Chicago Tribune adds, "The stunning decision has the potential to alter dramatically the world of big-time college sports." Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter spoke after the ruling. 

"Never should a student athlete be forced to pay his own medical bills from their playing days. The same medical issues that professional athletes face are the same issues collegiate athletes face, except we are left unprotected." (Via  WMAQ

So what does this mean for Northwestern's football team, and even the NCAA going foward?

SB Nationnotes the players are now considered employees by the government. That means they can form a union, which could "hypothetically bargain for things" like shorter practices, medical benefits and —the biggest issue — increased financial compensation and the ability to accept endorsement deals.

CBS Sports is quick to point out though, this doesn't mean all college athletes are now free to join a union. This ruling only applies to student-athletes at private schools. "Players at public schools would need to appeal to their state's labor board."  

Northwestern University is also expected to appeal the case to a higher court. The university's football players will vote on whether to unionize within a month.