NLRB Lawyer Sees Some College Football Players as Employees, with Rights

Labor News

Members of the 2016 Northwestern football team sang their fight song after a game against Iowa in October. Credit Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Reprinted from The New York Times by

Top-level college football players at private universities are employees entitled to request improved working conditions and even to seek pay for their efforts, according to a memorandum issued by the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board and made public on Tuesday.

The determination, which was included in a letter from the counsel, Robert Griffin, and addressed to regional board directors nationwide, found that scholarship football players at private colleges like Northwestern, Stanford and Notre Dame have employment rights and are protected by law should they seek to bargain for a safer work environment, or request pay.

The memo was revealed more than a year and a half after the NLRB in Washington declined to exert jurisdiction over the Northwestern football team’s union petition, which effectively denied players the right to unionize and collectively bargain. Griffin’s memo does not affect that ruling. It does not give players at private universities the right to collectively bargain, nor does it carry the force of law like a full board finding, muting its impact. Supporters of athletes’ rights called it a clear signal that the question of whether college football players are employees remains unsettled. …

NY Times 2/1

About Jeffrey Burman 2854 Articles
Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

Leave a Reply