A sports economist and a Northwestern official testified at the second day of a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether college athletes are employees. InsideNU did not attend, but we feel like we know enough -- thanks to media reports and some excellent Twitter play-by-play – to outline what took place.
- Before the sports economist, David Berri, was allowed to speak, Alex Barbour, an NU attorney, questioned why Berri’s testimony was germane to the issue of whether college athletes should be considered employees. Hearing officer Joyce Hofstra eventually let him testify.
- Berri argued that college football is run the same way as professional sports are. A CAPA attorney said that Berri will try to show that Division I football and basketball have “splintered off and become auxiliary business centers.” The idea is to show that revenue-generating Division I sports are not part of the educational experience, a term NU attorneys have been using during the hearing. Berri said there was one major difference. “The difference would be … the NFL pays their players.” In his testimony, Berri cited Northwestern football’s revenues and expenses. Between 2003 and 2012, according to a document submitted to record by Berri, NU football reported a profit of $76 million; that's $235 million in revenues and $159 million in expenses. Attorneys representing NU questioned whether the numbers – which were pulled from the Department of Education – were valid. As a private institution, NU doesn’t have to disclose all of its financial data. The hearing officer, Joyce Hofstra, let Berri use the numbers.
- Berri said that NU’s football players are exploited because their compensation is capped at a value below what they’d earn in a free market. “There is an economic definition of the word exploitation,”Berri said, according to the AP. “A worker is exploited ... if their economic value is greater than their wages. ... By that definition, they are exploited."
- NU associate athletic director Brian Baptiste was the first witness NU has called to testify during the hearing. The school is expected to call two or three more witnesses (one may be a coach). On Tuesday, former NU quarterback Kain Colter said NU football players devote 50-60 hours a week to football-related activities during preseason training camp and 40-50 during the season. Baptiste yesterday said NU follows the NCAA rule limiting the hours that can be spent on athletics. As Baptiste pointed out, there are some things – such as hosting recruits, unsupervised workouts, compliance meetings, public appearances – the NCAA does not count toward its 20-hour rule. Some of the activities included on a football schedule CAPA submitted as testimony, for instance, are defined as “voluntary.” One of them is travel.
- Baptiste seemed to tie himself up when he said NU athletes and students abide by the same social media policy. CAPA said the policies were different (Colter Tuesday said he was told to remove a tweet he posted about free sunglasses he received). Baptiste eventually admitted that there is a different policy for athletes.
- Perhaps the biggest issue raised yesterday was the possibility that even if CAPA is certified, it won’t be able to collectively bargain for some of its stated goals because they don’t fall under NU’s purview. CAPA’s goals include, for example, increasing the value of scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance. NCAA rules determine how much compensation NU can provide its athletes with. So what NU’s trying to say, essentially, is that in the event CAPA is certified, NU can’t help the union achieve what it wants because its hands are tied by NCAA bylaws.
- An interesting note: NU senior safety Ibraheim Campbell reportedly attended the hearing yesterday.
- The hearing will continue Thursday and is expected to last through Friday. We’ll have another recap of the relevant talking points from Thursday and will be back in Chicago on Friday.