A recent decision by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional official has opened the door for Dartmouth basketball players to potentially become the first-ever NCAA athletes to form a labor union. All 15 members of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team have signed a petition to join Local 560 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which already represents other employees at the Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire.
This decision challenges the NCAA’s long-held stance that college athletes are students rather than employees. College sports organizations, including the NCAA, have advocated for federal legislation that would solidify this classification as they face a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania regarding this issue.
Although Dartmouth has the option to appeal the regional director’s decision to the national board, it is worth noting that a similar appeal occurred when members of the Northwestern football team sought to unionize in 2014. In the event of an appeal, the election would proceed, but the ballots would be retained until a ruling is made. It is important to highlight that all 15 members of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team have expressed their desire to proceed with unionizing.
This potential unionization effort by Dartmouth basketball players could have significant implications for the future of NCAA athletics and how student-athletes are perceived and treated within the collegiate system.
The Northwestern Ballots Controversy: An Analysis
The Northwestern ballots, serving as a crucial piece of evidence, were deliberately destroyed following a verdict by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB, responsible for regulating labor relations in private organizations, justified their decision on the grounds that allowing football players from the sole private institution in the esteemed Big Ten Conference would disrupt the equilibrium of the labor market within the conference. However, the NLRB did not delve into the matter of whether these players should be classified as employees. It is noteworthy that all eight Ivy League schools are privately owned.
Meanwhile, an ongoing complaint has been submitted to a distinct body of the NLRB in California. The complaint contends that both football and basketball players at the University of Southern California should be deemed employees not only of the university but also of the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA, under whose jurisdiction they operate.
During a comprehensive four-day hearing held in October, Dartmouth College presented a compelling argument discrediting the notion that players should be considered employees. Their stance was that athletics seamlessly integrate with the academic mission of the institution, much like participation in the orchestra or club sports.
Joe McConnell, an attorney representing Dartmouth, emphatically stated, “At Dartmouth, students’ primary objective is learning.” The college ardently maintains the principle that students who engage in collegiate athletics are first and foremost students, with their athletic status holding secondary importance.
Moreover, Dartmouth College revealed that its men’s basketball program operates at a financial loss. However, players’ attorneys vehemently contested this claim, asserting that the college conveniently overlooks significant revenue streams generated by the basketball team.
Emphasizing a comprehensive perspective, the players argued that monetary profitability alone should not be the sole criterion for evaluation. Rather, they contend that the program’s ability to generate revenue and the extent of coaches’ control over players are integral factors that demand consideration.
In conclusion, the contentious issue surrounding the classification of collegiate athletes as employees continues to provoke intense debates and legal battles. The outcome of the simultaneous hearings in Northwestern and California will significantly shape the future landscape of college sports and the rights accorded to its participants.