By: Evan Schaub – Senior, Communication
Following a groundbreaking ruling on March 26, college athletes are eligible to be seen as employees for the first time ever.
This historic move came at the hands of Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago.
To form a union in the eyes of the law all persons inside the union to must be recognized as employees. When football players at Northwestern University sought to organize, they faced the question of whether or not a college athlete is an employee.
Ohr kept a number of factors in mind when making his decision. Two of those factors include the time commitment an athlete has to make and the revenue they generate while playing football at a major Division I school like Northwestern.
Northwestern swiftly appealed the decision.
This is the just the first step in what is going to be an ongoing battle between student-athletes and the NCAA, a battle many people think will go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
It’s true that most student-athletes don’t bring in any money for their schools. That doesn’t mean that the student-athletes who do make money for their schools should suffer.
It’s a problem that could be fixed with a solution as simple as giving popular student-athletes a share of the profits made from jersey sales bearing their last name. The best way to get a local perspective on this broad issue is to look at our very own men’s basketball team.
If UD’s basketball team were unionized, a player like redshirt junior guard and top-scorer Jordan Sibert would be able to sell and make money from his jersey and likeness. Keep in mind that his name and likeness are more valuable right now than they have ever been because of the team’s magnificent run to the Elite Eight.
Right now, all around the nation, colleges are making vast sums of money selling merchandise that represent “amateur” student-athletes, and those student-athletes aren’t seeing a dime of those profits.
Let’s remember that it isn’t the athletic director who’s spending the time in the gym getting ready for the game, it’s the student-athlete.
A problem does come about, though, once you start recognizing student-athletes as employees because their scholarships now become taxable income.
Some of these student-athletes spend 40-50 hours a week working toward getting better at their sport. They play in front of massive crowds. Fans aren’t cheering for the administration who seeks to clamp down on post-game celebrations.
They’re coming to see these student-athletes represent the university in the best way possible, through teamwork and self-discipline. Yet the administrators are the ones reaping the immense financial benefits.
The NCAA keeps perpetuating the façade that every move they make is about the kids and that all student-athletes play “for the love of their sport, not to be paid.” How ridiculous is it to make that assumption?
The star point guard of a prominent school makes more money for that school than any graduate assistant could and yet that same graduate assistant is probably making more money than the student-athlete.
It’s hypocritical of the NCAA to talk about how they’re representing the best interests of student-athletes everywhere, when they clearly aren’t. If they represented the interests of all student-athletes they would recognize that some students’ collegiate careers might be the most success they ever see.
Some student-athletes are extremely successful in college, but simply aren’t good enough to make it in the pros. If people are watching that one standout student-athlete on TV every week then he or she should at least be able to reap some of the financial benefits. College might be that players’ last time to shine before they enter the real world.
This decision is truly a dagger in the heart of the NCAA. Student-athletes want their rights, and they just might have to go all the way to the Supreme Court to do it.