Five yards forward, five yards back, thank to the National Labor Relations Board.
First, a group of football players attending
But Northwestern appealed the regional director's decision, and last week the full five-member board set it aside, declaring that it would "decline jurisdiction" because to intervene "would not serve to promote stability in labor relations."
Why would recognizing a right to organize not promote labor stability? According to the NLRB, because of the structure of college sports. Under federal law, the NLRB has jurisdiction in private sector labor issues only. But only 17 of the more than 125 schools that field teams in the
Northwestern also is the only private school in the NCAA's Big Ten division, which includes the
Faced with that rat's nest of legal and jurisdictional issues, the NLRB threw the Northwestern players' labor rights under the team bus. Though the board warned of instability, the opposite seems more likely to us — with players bargaining collectively at one school, players elsewhere could be emboldened to seek similar protections.
The issue isn't going away. There is talk among activists about pursuing antitrust claims. The NCAA is appealing a federal court decision in a lawsuit by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon asserting that players should be allowed to profit from their own likenesses in television broadcasts and video games, which the NCAA bans. Of course, the NCAA could blunt these drives by behaving more fairly and reasonably to the people whose performances draw so many billions in revenues.