Image by Marsmetten Tallahassee | Wikimedia

Image by Marsmetten Tallahassee | Wikimedia

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board sided with a group of northwestern players who are asking to form a union, saying student-players are employees who have the right to collectively bargain.

Eligible to unionize

The N.C.A.A. and the college sports have been functioning on the principle of student-athlete for decades. Peter Ohr questioned this in a 24-page decision, calling Northwestern an employer and deemed all its football players eligible to unionize.

The regional director based the decision on a litany of factors, including how much time players devote to train and practice, and the control exerted by the coaching staff and their scholarships—which he called compensation.

A major step towards justice

The College Athletes Player Association, which represents the northwestern football players, hailed the decision as a “major step towards justice.” Ramogi Huma, the association’s president and a former U.C.L.A. football player, said the young men on the northwestern team are demonstrating what players can accomplish when they are unified.

“Their actions will improve the lives of the current and future generations of college athletes,” he added.