NLRB: Northwestern Football Players Cannot Unionize For Now

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For Immediate Release: Aug. 17, 2015 

Riverside, CA - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced its ruling today that it will not exercise its jurisdiction in the Northwestern football players unionization effort.  This ruling does not close the door on the option for college athletes at private schools to unionize but it takes away this option for Northwestern football players at this time.  The Board was clear that the decision only affects Northwestern football players and does not prevent players from other private schools from attempting to unionize.  The Board chose not to answer the question about whether or not Northwestern football players are employees, but stated that the factual findings of the NLRB Regional Director who ruled that they are employees was fully supported by the record.

CAPA President Ramogi Huma stated, “This is not a loss, but it is a loss of time.  It delays players securing the leverage they need to protect themselves from traumatic brain injury, sports-related medical expenses, and other gaps in protections.” Huma points to the suicide of Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge and Michigan coaches keeping quarterback Shane Morris in the game with concussion symptoms last season as examples of the brain trauma risks college football players are subject to.

Former Northwestern football player Kain Colter who spearheaded the unionization drive stated, "The ruling is disappointing because it imposes a delay in this issue, but I am proud of my teammates for standing up for justice.  Their courage has provided a national platform to expose gaps in player protections and pressure colleges and conferences to take steps toward better health coverage, four-year scholarships, concussion reform, and even stipends.  The fight for justice will continue and college athletes everywhere should take note. A few dozen 18-21 year-old Northwestern football players joined together to challenge an unjust system and are forcing change.  It's simple. As players stand up, injustice falls down."

Together, Northwestern football players and CAPA have caused the entire country to understand that college athletes deserve a greater voice and basic protections.  Under NCAA rules, players can be stuck with sports-related medical expenses, lose their scholarship when they are injured, are exposed to unnecessary risk of traumatic brain injury, and face a Federal Graduation Rate of approximately 50% in football and men’s basketball.  This unionization effort comes after more than a decade of NCAA sports fighting against these reforms.

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