With high-profile deaths of iconic NFL players such as Junior Seau and Dave Duerson making headlines over the past couple years, the long-term health and well-being of NFL players has come to the forefront as the hot topic of the day. Nowhere has this issue gained more notoriety and exposure than in the series of lawsuits filed against the NFL by retired players.
The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) ruled on March 26, 2014 that Northwestern University football players who receive scholarships from the University are employees of the University and are eligible to unionize.
The NLRB cited several reasons for its decision, including that the University benefits from the players’ services through the compensation it receives for those services in the form of advertising, sponsorships, media buys, ticket sales, etc. Additionally, it found that the University controls how and when the players perform their services and that these football players receive compensation for their services in the form of scholarships. The NLRB determined that football players receiving scholarships from the University are not “primarily students” and that their activities are rather economic ones that benefit the school.
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