It had been awhile. Since April of 2014 to be exact. But Monday, for the first time since cameramen gathered outside of Ryan Field early on a Friday morning to sneak peaks at Northwestern players as they arrived to cast what at the time was an historic vote on whether to unionize, Northwestern was once again at the forefront of a major national story.
The NLRB National Board of Directors "declined to assert jurisdiction" on Northwestern players' movement to unionize, and in doing so dismissed the petition. Here's a roundup of some of the best analysis of the decision:
- First of all, you can go to the primary source if you'd like. Here's the NLRB National Board's decision in full.
- Our Josh Rosenblat had some very well-reasoned analysis. The following paragraph summed up his stance:
Like a microcosm of the institution it was asked to make a decision on, the NLRB's seven-page explanation was filled with contradicting notions and paradoxes that led to the final conclusion: things are okay the way they are, so there's no need to change them; and even if things weren't okay — which they may not be — it definitely isn't our job to change them.
- Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann is always great when it comes to legal issues in sports. His analysis included two really interesting paragraphs:
One expert found it very odd that the NLRB has been willing, on multiple occasions, to rule on whether graduate assistants and teaching assistants at private universities are employees but is now unwilling to rule on whether football players at private universities are employees. This is especially curious given that the NLRB's willingness to rule on graduate assistants and teaching assistants posed the accompanying risk of causing instability between private and public universities—in other words, the very same risk of instability that the NLRB now cites as a key reason to decline to rule on the employment eligibility of college football players.
Another person familiar with the NLRB felt that the "board blinked under some very bright lights"—namely pressure from various constituencies that did not want to see players recognized as employees—in refraining from issuing a substantive ruling.
- VICE's Patrick Hruby's headline was great: "NLRB to Northwestern football union: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" Hruby also found similar paradoxes in the argument to those that Josh found:
The NLRB's non-decision is rooted in... non-logic. In a general sense, the board was being asked to decide if college athletes qualify as labor. Yet doing so, according to the board, could potentially destabilize labor relations between the school and its athletes—labor relations that don't technically exist unless the board makes said decision.
- Inside NU editor-emeritus Kevin Trahan (along with Steve Berkowitz) wrote about the NLRB's decision for USA Today. They spoke to David M. Mandel, a labor attorney, who explained some of the potential political rationale behind the NLRB's decision:
"I think it is a prudent political decision by the NLRB. First of all the odds that the assertion of jurisdiction over student-athletes would be upheld by the courts was far from certain, so they would face a good chance of a loss that would be obviously a high-profile loss."
- Trahan also wrote for VICE Sports and examined the particularly perplexing aspects of the decision:
The NLRB is supposed to give workers a voice. The NCAA has proven that it is committed to not giving athletes a voice. The NLRB anointing the NCAA makes no sense.
- Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples detailed the ways in which the efforts of Kain Colter and CAPA have effected change, despite the NLRB's ruling against the Northwestern players:
New policies exist because athletes scared schools into making them. The athletes are not powerless. This episode proved that—even if the Northwestern football team can't rent out its own union hall.
- VIDEO: Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma, among others, joined ESPN's Bob Ley on Outside The Lines to react to the NLRB's decision.
- The Daily Northwestern's Alex Putterman spoke to United Steelworkers political director Tim Waters, who told Putterman that athletes at other schools have "expressed interest" in organizing their own unionization movements.