Are student athletes really employees of a college or university?

A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board concerning student athletes will turn the world of college sports upside down. The impact if it stands will have far reaching effect and the face of college sports will never be the same. The ruling stated that students are employees of the colleges and universities but they only include those who have scholarships. Athletes at colleges and universities are students not employees. Employees in any organization have a right to form a union but in this case the term employee does not fit the situation. The decision is being appealed the results of which are unknown at this time.

Part of the facts addresse the benefits schools receive from donations resulting from the efforts of students in their respective sport. Teams which do well seem to receive more funds from various sources including some television income if games are televised. Millions of dollars are sometimes involved with college sports and some say student athletes should receive some money for the benefits they are providing the schools for which they are playing. I disagree with this position. Athletes do have perks when playing college sports.

As previously mentioned this precedent setting decision will impact all college sports across the country if the decision is not reversed. The decision does raise some questions regarding benefits for student athletes. In sports there can be some injuries and in that respect students should receive some medical benefits especially if they are injured while playing in a sports team for their individual college or university.

College sports are big business these days especially with March madness and the tournament. Some sports can be dangerous and injuries which some athletes have experienced were life changing. College athletes need to be protected through some kind of medical plan which the college pays for not the student or parents. One specific example is football players. Even professional football players can have injuries affecting their livelihood and college football players are no different. Athletes at any level of sports whether in colleges or elementary or high school need to be wary of potential injuries. Schools also need to be concerned about the safety of those individuals playing sports for their institutions.

One aspect of sports is the equipment which athletes use should be of the highest safety rating money can buy. Granted some sports do not need much equipment like basketball but safety should always be a concern. In this sport referees need to be conscious of potential injuries to individuals who play any sport whether they are professional or in schools. Some professional sports leagues and organizations have established rules for the safety of those playing the sport. Some individuals play with enthusiasm with extreme passion which can and has led to injuries. Injuries in professional baseball have led to weeks of being on the injury list while others due to their injuries has seen them miss whole seasons and potential career ending injuries.

It is true that safety equipment costs money especially for some sports but organizations and schools need to invest in proper equipment to protect their players from potential injuries. Granted you cannot foresee some injuries but schools and professional sports leagues can require a certain level of safety.

Last but not least the idea that athletes playing college sports are employees makes one wonder on what criteria this decision is based. If the criteria supports this decision then the criteria needs to be revised. The National Labor Relations Board makes many decisions which impact a large number of individuals and sometimes as this one is a precedent setting decision. It is hoped this decision will be overturned in our judicial system but at the same time the safety of athletes need to be examined and medical coverage for any injuries they receive while playing college sports or sports at any level.

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Jayfort 2 years ago

If university/college sports are nothing more than farm teams for the NFL, NBA, and MLB, then those agencies need to start paying the colleges for their sports programs. Universities/colleges are supposed to be places of higher education!

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Dennis AuBuchon 2 years ago Author


Thanks for your input. It is true that college sports players often wind up in professional leagues but it is the result of the playing capabilities not that they were a college sports athlete. Not all players wind up in professional sports.

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Jayfort 2 years ago

I work at a state university. This university pays for its sports programs, not through revenue generated by the sports events themselves and products, but through fees payed by the students. One funding mechanism the university uses is double selling parking spaces (to students for parking for classes and for people going to sporting events). If a student has a class the day or night of a sporting event, too bad, they can't park near their classroom as the spots have been taken by people going to the sporting event. I paid for my son to attend classes not for a sporting event.

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Dennis AuBuchon 2 years ago Author


Thanks again for commenting on this hub. I totally agree with your statements. The NLRB seems to have forgotten the reason students go to college. It is to get an education not land a contract to play professional sports. True it may be a secondary reason but the purpose is to get an education.

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