Category Archives: Look For The Union Label

“Student athletes sense their moment has arrived.”

Those of you looking at yesterday’s NLRB announcement and assuming that it’s all about the money may not be right, at least not to start with.  I have the feeling that if anyone takes this particular ball and starts running with it, it’ll be about working conditions.

Winter says athletes right now could begin organizing, by team or school or conference, to make demands about working conditions if their regional labor board approves unionization. They don’t like their meals on campus? They don’t like the way in which their program travels to games? They don’t like their coach’s practice schedule? Under the National Labor Relations Act, they would have the right to voice such complaints—even go on strike—while under protection of the law from their company, in this case the university.

There are also matters like insurance and post-college health care.  Or, to hit college football even harder, what if there’s an organized objection to playoff expansion?

None of this is about amateurism.  It’s about having more say so in how college athletes are asked to work or enhance the educational experience or whatever euphemism you’re comfortable using to describe what they do.  It won’t sit well with the control freaks who coach them, that’s for sure.

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Death of a catchphrase

Looks like the NLRB objects to some time-honored language:

Today, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memorandum to all Field offices providing updated guidance regarding her position that certain Players at Academic Institutions (sometimes referred to as student athletes), are employees under the National Labor Relations Act, and, as such, are afforded all statutory protections.

The memo further advises that, where appropriate, she will allege that misclassifying such employees as mere “student-athletes” and leading them to believe that they are not entitled to the Act’s protection has a chilling effect on Section 7 activity and is an independent violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.

“Players at Academic Institutions perform services for institutions in return for compensation and subject to their control.  Thus, the broad language of Section 2(3) of the Act, the policies underlying the NLRA, Board law, and the common law fully support the conclusion that certain Players at Academic Institutions are statutory employees, who have the right to act collectively to improve their terms and conditions of employment,” said General Counsel Abruzzo. “My intent in issuing this memo is to help educate the public, especially Players at Academic Institutions, colleges and universities, athletic conferences, and the NCAA, about the legal position that I will be taking regarding employee status and misclassification in appropriate cases.”

Recent developments bolster General Counsel Abruzzo’s  position, including: the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent unanimous decision in NCAA v. Alston, that recognized that college sports is a profit-making enterprise…

Sounds like we’re about to hear a lot less “student-athlete” going forward.  If you’re a college athlete, Alston is the gift that keeps on giving.  Kudos to Messrs. Emmert and Remy for standing up on principle!

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

No way out

By the way, there’s one more interesting tidbit from that Dennis Dodd piece I linked to in the previous post.

A group of coaches support unionization as a way to get through the NIL debate, according to Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. The AFCA the 130 FBS head coaches.

“If there is no cap, then how do you regulate this? Because the cap is the only you can regulate it,” Berry told CBS Sports. “That’s why a lot of our coaches are saying, ‘Let’s just let them unionize. Let’s take the NFL model and apply it to college ball. That’s the only way you’re going to have some type of kind of guidelines and controls.’

“Many of our coaches are beginning to believe the only way to get through this. I don’t see a way out. I’ve talked to a lot of lawyers and all that kind of stuff. I don’t see a way out of this until you all the sudden they’re employees and you start playing them and allow them to unionize.”

That’s the likely end game after the NCAA is faced with cleaning up the rubble from political and judicial reaction to the amateurism status quo.  The coaches are just getting there sooner because they’ve either got direct NFL experience or know plenty of their peers who do.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

Today, in elections have consequences

I bet schools didn’t see this one coming.

I wonder how many hints it’s going to take before the NCAA gets the message that hunkering down isn’t a working strategy any more.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, Political Wankery

Labor law, college football players and COVID

If you have a few minutes, spend them listening to this clip about the labor law environment college athletes find themselves operating within.

(h/t DawgStats)

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Filed under Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label

#TheyStillUnited

Judging from the statement #WeAreUnited released after Larry Scott announced he nuked the 2020 Pac-12 football season, he’s in for a stressful winter.

Screenshot_2020-08-12 Laine Higgins ( lainehiggins17) Twitter

The financial demands have been jettisoned.  Left are health concerns, frustration over having those concerns dismissed and a number of shots at the lack of leadership coming from Scott and his office.  There’s also the promise/threat that they expect a voice in the shaping of whatever comes for 2021.

Like it or not, this is going to be a topic of interest between now and the start of next year, especially if the plug gets pulled on the sport nationally.  There will be a vacuum and you know what they say about vacuums.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label, Pac-12 Football

A meaningful seat at the table

I’ve seen questions from some of you in the comments about the likelihood of a college players’ union.  As this article ($$) indicates, there are a lot of legal hurdles that would have to be overcome in order for that to become a reality.

A players’ association might be a different matter, though.  More on that in a sec.

The irony is that it’s becoming more and more clear that it’s in college athletics’ interest to have a negotiating partner.  As Andy Staples ($$) put it,

There is no mechanism to negotiate with the players who — whether schools want to admit it or not — make up most of the workforce in this multibillion-dollar endeavor.

Why could pro leagues — those with bubbles and those without — restart? Because they negotiated the terms of those restarts with their respective players’ associations. The players wouldn’t have come back without a mutually-agreed-upon plan.

The problem is, the idea of a players’ union is scarier to the NCAA and schools than a one-year business loss due to a sport shutdown is.  Would a players’ association, such as what #WeWantToPlay is advocating, be less threatening?  Maybe.

… it is possible for players to form a non-profit organization designed to look out for their interests. And though the people in charge of the schools, conferences and the NCAA wouldn’t be legally required to bargain with that group, it probably would be in their best interests to allow the players a greater voice in the governance of the sport. All the leagues have student-athlete advisory committees, but those athletes get little to no say in any important decisions.

It would be voluntary, so the schools would have some say over how things could be shaped.  But in the end, it still comes down to relinquishing a degree of control to college athletes, either just in the revenue producing sports, or overall.  I don’t sense that things are presently dire enough for the schools to make that leap, but ask me again in six months.  The way things are going, a lot could happen between now and then.

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Filed under College Football, Look For The Union Label

Danny Kanell, a play in three acts

Shot.

Screenshot_2020-08-10 Home Twitter

Chaser.

Screenshot_2020-08-10 Home Twitter(1)

You’re drunk.  Go home.

Screenshot_2020-08-10 Home Twitter(2)

(h/t)

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And then you had to spoil it all by saying something stupid like…

I love you “ultimately create a college football players association”.

Screenshot_2020-08-10 Trevor Lawrence on Twitter #WeWantToPlay https t co jvQhE7noGB Twitter

I’m sure a few conference commissioners and school administrators got stiffies when they first heard about prominent players like Lawrence and Fields expressing a strong desire to play ball in 2020.

The fine print is a bitch, though.

“The beautiful thing is now we’re all on the same page,” said Stanford defensive lineman Dylan Boles, one of the players who organized Sunday’s message. “We made history tonight.”

Boles said he received a direct message on Twitter at 5:30 p.m. PT Sunday from Clemson running back Darien Rencher. The two had never talked before, but Rencher wanted to discuss the Pac-12 players’ unity movement with which Boles was involved. Boles is one of the leaders of a group of roughly 400 players in the Pac-12 who published a list of demands early last week and said they planned to sit out of practice and potentially games if conference officials were unwilling to meet with them and address their concerns. Players from the Big Ten and other conferences made similar demands thereafter, and others showed their support with the hashtag #WeAreUnited on social media throughout the week.

Rencher was one of dozens of college football players — a list that included his Heisman Trophy-candidate teammate, quarterback Trevor Lawrence — who shared the hashtag #WeWantToPlay this weekend as college football administrators met to debate the merits of a 2020 season. Rencher and others felt that fans and commenters were unfairly pitting the #WeWantToPlay contingent against the #WeAreUnited group, Boles said. Rencher, Boles and Lawrence talked briefly on a FaceTime call before deciding to loop in more players from around the country.

“We got down to talking and agreed that both of our goals are aligned with each other,” Boles said. “We all want to play this year. We just want to make sure players have a say in this thing.”

Larry Scott strenuously objects.  And I bet that will be a subject for the next commissioners’ meeting, too.

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Filed under College Football, Look For The Union Label

“I don’t think he thought of us as people who were making a legitimate case.”

You will be totally surprised to learn that Larry Scott blew off the #WeAreUnited players in their meeting this week.

When a group of Pac-12 Conference players who are threatening to opt out of the football season met with Commissioner Larry Scott on Thursday night, they had two primary objectives: pushing for more-frequent coronavirus testing and protecting the eligibility and status of players who choose not to play for health reasons.

On both fronts, the players said, they made little progress.

They said Scott told them the conference was powerless to mandate uniform testing standards. They also described the commissioner as often condescending, unprepared and unwilling to meet with them again — telling them that subsequent discussions would be with the conference’s medical advisory board.

The players said Scott criticized their statement on The Players’ Tribune as a “misguided P.R. stunt.”

(Larry only respects guided PR stunts.  But I digress.)

You should be equally surprised by this.

Valentino Daltoso, a senior offensive lineman at California, added: “It was not very productive. We did not come away with many answers. He made it very clear that he does not want to meet again.”

Seriously, what would be the point?

There was one revealing moment to emerge from the meeting:

The players also said they were rebuffed when Jevon Holland, a junior defensive back at the University of Oregon, asked near the end of the nearly 90-minute meeting if they could have lawyers present. When Scott equivocated, he was pressed by Holland for a yes or no answer. According to the players, Scott said lawyers could talk to lawyers but “this isn’t a negotiation, it’s a discussion.” Anderson — who formerly worked as an N.F.L. executive — informed the players that he was a labor lawyer and that they were not employees, a position the N.C.A.A. has long fought to assert.

And therein lies the rub, as this quote illustrates.

Gee, I’m beginning to suspect that the health and safety of college athletes isn’t the top priority of these people.

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Filed under College Football, Look For The Union Label, Pac-12 Football