Unionization of School Athletes

Unionization of School Athletes



Unionization of School Athletes

For a long period, the College Athletes Players Association and other relevant stakeholders in the schools’ sports arena have been campaigning for the unionization of student players. Accordingly, the decision by the national labor relations board (NLRB) on March 2014 appears to be the catalyst of future developments in this subsection, which will be useful in improving the talent of these students as well as increasing the incorporated benefits (Johnston, 2003). However, this ruling has instigated various debates with stakeholders differing on the essence of this unionization tactic. While proponents of this decision argue that these school players have numerous similarities to other employees in the national sports subsection, the opposers indicate that categorizing school athletes as workers is an insufficient approach of promoting their welfare.

Based on this argument, I do not agree with the campaigns and notions upheld by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the verdict by NLRB. To begin with, it is irrational to consider school athletes as employees. This is because most of them participate in these sport activities with the main aim of acquiring scholarships. In addition, various resurveys conducted on the motivational force behind their involvement in these activities indicate that a significant number of these players join the teams upon identifying their talent in sports (Johnston, 2003). This proves that the main objective of these team players is to improve their talent and academic performance as opposed to obtaining income from this participation. For this reason, placing them in a similar category as other professional sportspeople who earn a modest living from their athletic activities would be unfair to these school players.

In addition, the exceptions included in the ruling regarding the ranking of only a specific portion of the school players as employees is questionable. To begin with, non-scholarship players may not benefit fully from the protection clauses provided by the ruling of NLRB. In the normal workforce structure, an intern receives minimal or no pay despite his or her engagement in completing official duties. Accordingly, it is debatable on the application of this legal concept in compensating non-scholarship players. Likewise, as stipulated in the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employer may use legal provisions to avoid making full payments to a worker.  However, the existence of this rule by NLRB may alter these stipulations. For example, the football players in Division III from the University Of Chicago acquire minimal earnings from the sport activities within the institution (Johnston, 2003).

In contrast, athletes from other institutes within the Northwestern region acquire substantial earnings. Accordingly, the legal provisions altered by NLRB may require the University of Chicago to compensate their schools players through similar principles used by McKendree University. This indicates the existing and potential loopholes in the implementation of this policy. In addition, ranking high school students as employees regardless of the division of their team is questionable. These students are hardly aware of their rights as team players and it would be more difficult to understand their responsibility and civil liberties as workers (Johnston, 2003). Based on these arguments, NLRB ought to consider other aspects that could affect the welfare of these school payers and the hindrances in the implementation of this set of policies. All stakeholders ought to collaborate in modifying the existing decision in order to enhance the talent of these athletes and compensating them adequately.


Johnston, J. T. (January 01, 2003). Show Them the Money: The Threat of NCAA Athlete Unionization in Response to the Commercialization of College Sports. Seton Hall Journal of Sport Law, 13, 203-238.          

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