In what could be viewed as a game-changing decision, a National Labor Relations Board regional director found that Northwestern University football players are indeed employees of the institution, not simply student athletes, and may unionize.
NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr referred to the players’ time commitment to each of their sports and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field/court as reasons for granting them union rights.
It will undoubtedly be a lengthy legal battle, and is more of a first word rather than the final word, but a step in this direction will bring student athletes closer to what they view as justice.
This, however, is only part of it. This decision can only affect private institutions and not public universities. This means that there are still many student athletes who are left out in the cold and are not benefited by this — not right now, anyway.
A topic such as this is very polarizing and raises all too many questions regarding compensating college athletes. Should college athletes be paid for their playing? Are scholarships enough? Many opinions are to be had on such a subject.
I don’t have a problem with compensating athletes. It is agreed that a scholarship and tuition to complete a degree is great, but being a college athlete requires time to be spent that does not allow said athlete to have a job and earn money for him or herself. Money to go on a date or out with friends is a struggle for many student athletes to obtain.
Athletes and athletic programs generate millions of dollars, the majority of which come from football and basketball. Since that is the case, should these athletes who bring in the money get more of a cut than those who don’t? Or what about a walk-on player who puts in the time, but is not on scholarship and receives no compensation? Shouldn’t they get something?
The answer to all the above questions is yes. Student athletes should be given the full cost of attendance and should be compensated above any scholarship they are already receiving. To deny athletes their share of the revenue they generate is ridiculous and has gone on long enough.
There is one glaring problem with this, however.
No model has been presented as an effective way of providing such compensation. To be able to share revenue with players is so convoluted and murky that no solution seems to make sense.
How much would each player receive? How would it be distributed fairly among sports that generate revenue? Many other questions seem to pop up more quickly than they can be answered. Even when they can be answered, no one can do so without raising more problems.
I am of the thought that, since there is no way to pay college athletes fairly/correctly, then nothing should be done at all. Until a model is found that can suits all parties, the Pandora’s box of paying athletes should not be opened.
The NCAA does need to show that it is taking steps to fix the problem and needs to do it ASAP. Otherwise, they subject themselves to even more litigation and potentially a College Athletes Players Union that could greatly change the landscape of college athletics.
A more detailed review of the NLRB decision and how it could affect Weber State University will appear in the Wednesday edition of The Signpost.