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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Regional NLRB Rules on Northwestern Football Players

April 3, 2014

The Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago recently ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University are "employees" under the National Labor Relations Act. The rationales for the ruling were the amount of revenue the players generated for the university and time spent by athletes on football-related activities versus academic activities.

The decision applies only to football scholarship athletes at private institutions. If the regional decision is not overturned on appeal, the players with scholarships will be able to vote on whether they want the College Athletes Players Association to represent them for purposes of collective bargaining.

In a March 26 statement, Northwestern University's vice president for university relations, Alan Cubbage, announced the institution's respectful disagreement with the decision and its plans to appeal the case to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. 


Mary Bachinger
Director, Tax Policy