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Northwestern’s Defeat Won’t End Quest For More Rights By College Athletes

Updated on September 6, 2015

Last month’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decline to assert jurisdiction on the Northwestern football players’ union petition “was the right decision, a labor lawyer said. The board concluded that “asserting jurisdiction in this case would not serve to promote stability in labor relations.”

Brad Livingston, partner in the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, said declining to assert jurisdiction was an “easier letdown of organized labor” than reversing the regional board’s decision that shocked the sports and legal worlds last year. Livingston had testified at a congressional hearing last year addressing unionization of student-athletes.

Adding “there is no appeal” in this case, Livingston, however, was clear that this decision applied to just Northwestern and not future possibilities. “They’ll (the athletes) continue to push as it’s obvious that Congress is not thrilled with the NCAA model,” explained Livingston.

Whether unionizing is the best path to pursue in terms of giving athletes more rights remains to be seen, however, as it would have widespread implications on how universities are able to operate. The pending appeal on the O’Bannon ruling regarding athletes’ rights to profit from use of their own images is another avenue.

Another seemingly un-related factor could be the ruling in the Tom Brady Deflategate case last week. Federal courts have historically been reluctant to intervene on decisions by commissioners and high-ranking officials regarding the domains of their arenas. It’s one reason why Alex Rodriguez chose not to appeal his season-long PED suspension last year. These aren’t exactly rulings on the magnitude of the Curt Flood reserve clause case in 1972.

The NCAA has ruled the roost in college sports without interference for a long time. And, although the Northwestern football players lost, it doesn’t mean players won’t achieve landmark victories in the very near future.


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    • David Lariviere profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lariviere 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      Agreed, lions44 on the compensation of the non-revenue athletes. There are enough smart people around to figure out a model for this! Thanks, Dave.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I supported the action of the NW players but in order for change to occur it needs to come for those with some power. They got bad advice. It was an honorable thing to do, but the timing was wrong. Ed O'Bannon's case is solid and a game changer. But I still don't see how you can compensate the revenue producing athletes without the other athletes (track, baseball and all women's sports) raising issues of unfairness as well as Title IX.


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