NLRB rules Northwestern football players can unionize

The Northwestern Wildcats stand on the field during play against the Michigan Wolverines at Ryan Field on November 16, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois.

In his ruling, Peter Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board wrote that there is abundant evidence student athletes are treated as employees. He cited the long hours (over 40 per week) spent training, wrote that athletes are paid, in the form of scholarships, and noted that Northwestern rakes in big bucks and prestige when the football team wins.

Ohr also highlighted the control that coaches have over athletes. Among the examples included in the ruling, are a number of restrictions placed on football players. 

  • Only upperclassmen are permitted to live off campus, and even then, they are required to submit a lease to their coach for his approval.
  • Athletes have to diclose detailed information to coaches about what they drive.
  • Travel policies restrict players from leaving campus in the 48 hours before finals.
  • Finally, they must abide by a social media policy that restricts what they can post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In fact, Ohr writes, "the players are prohibited from denying a coach's 'friend' request."

About the author

Noel King is a reporter for Marketplace's Wealth and Poverty desk.

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