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Northwestern files brief to appeal NLRB decision

Northwestern University officially submitted its brief to appeal the local office of the National Labor Relations Board's decision that Northwestern's scholarship football players are employees and do have the right to unionize.

The move, which was announced Wednesday, gives the College Athletes Players Association, the union representing the football players, one week to submit its brief before the case is reviewed by the national board in Washington, D.C.

In short, Northwestern's brief took the reasoning laid out in Regional Director Peter Ohr's decision and attempted to refute it.

The biggest contention in the brief -- and the one that has been at the center of the argument since CAPA filed its petition in January -- is whether Northwestern's scholarship football players have an economic or academic relationship with the University.

From Ohr's standpoint, he sees the scholarships as monetary compensation for performing a service (football). In turn, he decided that the relationship was primarily economic.

On the other hand, Northwestern critiqued Ohr's decision by mentioning Ohr's reluctance to discuss the academic demand Northwestern puts on football players and how academics plays a role in a student-athlete's life.

"That is precisely what the Regional Director did here," the brief read, "by focusing almost exclusively on the amount of time a football student-athlete spends in athletic activities during just a portion of the academic year."

Northwestern did not refute that the football players do have an economic relationship with the University to some extent, but they did not need to. In an appellate brief, the appealing side only needs to show cause for a review by exploiting oversights from the previous decision.

The brief also discussed the differences between student-athletes and normal students to show that Ohr's claims about the extent to which the football program controls the student-athletes lives is at a similar level to the way the academic side of the University monitors students.

Regardless of what happens with the briefs, Northwestern's players will vote on whether they want the union to represent them on April 25.