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On February 5, Region 01 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided that student athletes on the Darthmouth College men’s basketball team qualify as employees and are eligible to unionize.

This is the first time the NLRB has found that student athletes are employees when the institution does not award athletic scholarships and the sports programs do not generate profits.

For now, the ruling only applies to the men’s basketball team at Dartmouth and is expected to be appealed. However, following a 2021 NLRB legal memorandum finding that college athletes should be considered employees, and amidst strong Congressional pressures to characterize all student athletes as employees, it provides insight into how the NLRB may rule in upcoming similar claims and the wide-ranging implications it could have for all institutions with athletic programs. NACUBO will continue to monitor and report on developments.


Mary Bachinger

Director, Tax Policy


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