The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against the University of Southern California, the Pac-12 and the NCAA on Thursday, alleging that those organizations violated a provision of the U.S. Labor Relations Act.
The crux of the complaint comes over the distinction between the terms “student-athletes” and “employees.” The outcome of the case could portend a shift toward student-athletes being treated as employees.
The complaint reads, in part, “At all material times Respondents, both jointly and severally, have misclassified the Players as non-employee student athletes, including in the USC Athletics Student-Athlete Handbook.”
A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Los Angeles that could result in an order requiring all parties to cease referring to players as “student-athletes” and instead classify them as employees in all official documents.
If a judge were to rule against the university, league and NCAA, those entities would have avenues for appeal, setting the stage for a potentially lengthy legal process.
Depending on outcome, the case could usher in an era of unionization, per multiple observers in the legal profession. That would follow an attempt at unionization by Northwestern University football players in 2014-15 that ultimately ended with the NLRB deciding not to accept jurisdiction.
The current case stems from a complaint filed by the National College Players Association (NCPA) with the NLRB in February.
“Coaches, athletic directors, and conference commissioners are making millions of dollars while NCAA sports denies athletes fair compensation, breaks minimum wage and overtime laws, and avoids workers compensation while hazardous workplace conditions remain unchecked,” NCPA executive director Ramogi Huma said in a statement. “We are working to make sure college athletes are treated fairly in both the education and business aspects of college sports.”
–Field Level Media