Northwestern files union appeal to NLRB

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

Northwestern has officially appealed the National Labor Relations Board decision regarding the employee status of NU football players, the University announced Wednesday.

The school submitted its brief to the NLRB’s main branch in Washington, D.C., explaining why the Chicago regional director’s ruling that NU players are employees with the right to unionize was incorrect.

“Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first,” the brief says. “Based on the testimony of a single player, the Regional Director described Northwestern’s football program in a way that is unrecognizable from the evidence actually presented at the hearing,”

The brief emphasizes the benefits the school provides its players, such as four-year scholarships and strong medical coverage.

After five days of testimony in February, Chicago regional director Peter Sung Ohr ruled in favor of the players, saying the athlete-University relationship sufficiently resembles an employee-employer relationship.

After the ruling, NU immediately announced its intention to appeal, saying it was “disappointed” in Ohr’s decision.

With the team’s spring practice ongoing, coach Pat Fitzgerald and several Wildcats players have spoken out against the potential union. A players vote on whether to unionize will be held on April 25, with more than 50 percent needed for certification.

That election will have no bearing on the NLRB decision, and the results of the players’ vote will be impounded until after the appeal, for which there is currently no timetable.

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