The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made a major ruling in college athletics, as the board declared that private schools in the FBS may no longer prohibit their players from social media use or from accepting interviews with the meida.
ESPN first reported the ruling.
The ruling comes in the wake of a 2015 challenge of a rule at Northwestern, where the football team had been given strict rules by the school for social media use. Several schools have rules similar to this one, but Northwestern — as a private school — was in an interesting spot, as they are beholden to rulings from the NLRB.
The ruling also impacts other major private schools, such as Notre Dame, Baylor, USC, and Miami.
What makes this interesting is that the ruling specifically refers to college athletes as employees of the University. From ESPN:
In the memorandum made public last week, an associate general counsel of the NLRB stated in a footnote that he “assume(d) that Northwestern’s scholarship football players are statutory employees.”
Northwestern, in a written statement from vice president for university relations Alan K. Cubbage to ESPN.com, stated that the school “disputes the General Counsel’s assumption” that Northwestern’s athletes are employees and asserted that they “are students, first and foremost.
Whether or not college athletes should be compensated monetarily has been a huge controversy for college football over the last several years. While this ruling technically doesn’t change anything, the classification as “employees” could definitely cause some movement for future rulings.
Of course, since the NLRB doesn’t mandate what happens at public universities, they could simply be taken out of the equation with regards to future rulings on the pay of college athletes.