By Ken Reed

What would you call someone who fit the following profile?

  • Spends 40+ hours a week on services performed for an organization.
  • Can be “fired” for not performing up to the standards set by an organization’s supervisor.
  • Signs a contract outlining compensation for services rendered. (Contract also outlines areas of organizational control one must agree to.)

Sounds like an employee to me. It also fits the common law definition of an employee: a person who performs services for another under a contract of hire, subject to the other’s control or right of control, and in return for payment.

Due to the fact that college athletes, specifically football players at Northwestern University, fit this legal definition, NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr ruled Northwestern football players qualify as employees and have a right to form a union. He also found that the NCAA’s amateurism model is bogus.

As Patrick Hruby recently wrote in a SportsOnEarth piece:

“… the true significance of [Ohr’s] ruling isn’t just that he determined big-time college football players to be employees under the common law definition of the term. It’s that in order to make his ruling, he had to test amateurism’s underlying assumptions — both of which he found utterly lacking, in specific, unassailable detail, the way anyone unaddled by a century of college sports romanticism, propaganda, and semantic Jedi mind-tricking would.”

Clearly, the NCAA’s concept of amateurism is a model that’s on life support these days. The sooner the plug’s pulled the better.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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