By Ken Reed

Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director in Boston ruled members of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team are employees and granted them the right to unionize.

It was just the latest instance of college athletes gaining more civil and economic rights.

Sure, the ruling will be appealed, but we’re on a road with an inevitable destination: the death of the amateur model and the birth of big-time college athletes as employees of their institutions.

“The governance of college sports is a civil rights issue because the athletes are citizens and are being denied their rights by what amounts to collusion,” said civil rights historian Taylor Branch when I interviewed him several years ago. “We need modern abolitionists to fight this unjust and unstable system.”

Well, in addition to the Dartmouth basketball team, there are abolitionists on many fronts these days.

As Yahoo! Sports’ Ross Dellenger writes, the Dartmouth ruling is but the latest in the ongoing wave of college athletes seeking more rights.
“Beyond the NLRB, there are several avenues in which athletes can be ruled employees, including a collective action suit out of Pennsylvania: Johnson v. the NCAA. Meanwhile, the NLRB’s Los Angeles regional office is pursuing unfair labor practice charges against USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA as single and joint employers of FBS football players and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players. A hearing is ongoing in that case.”
One thing that’s becoming increasingly clear is that the NCAA, as we’ve known it, is on its death bed. The NCAA no longer has any clout or influence. Its role as the protector of the amateur model and the term “student-athlete” is going the way of the dinosaur.

“I think it’s fundamentally dishonest the way the NCAA and these schools have taken advantage of athletes in college,” said Branch. “College athletes are both athletes and students. They have every right to seek pay as athletes.”

Sooner, not later, the big-time college sports programs in this country will pull away from the NCAA and form their own association. And that association will acknowledge that athletes in football, men’s basketball, and other big revenue sports are employees with the same civil and economic rights the rest of us have.


Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.