Facts on the ground

Just a quickie for now.

ESPN has published the results of a survey of high football recruits. It asked ESPN’s 2015 top 300 a range of questions. Over half responded.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (seven out of eight) favor receiving a stipend for their efforts.

Sixty percent also answered yes to the question: “Should players be allowed to unionize?”

This is, it should be noted, a misleading question. As it stands (an appeal is pending), college football players are workers under American labor law. That is the result of the initial ruling, in March, by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board.

In other words, players *are* allowed to unionize. Whether they would *choose* to is a separate question. The distinction is important, though. Remember that the NCAA continues to insist that the athletes are students first, athletes second and, in no way employees. Unless the NLRB subsequently rules otherwise, the NCAA is simply wrong, when it comes to college football players. The premise of the question – unless the goal is to query the players’ opinions on American labor law – is that we’re still having a theoretical debate about whether college football players are workers.  But we’re not. It’s a legal question that, as of now, has been answered.

I know it’s just a quick and dirty survey of high school kids, but perhaps a better question would have been: “as of now, college football players are considered employees. As university employees, do you think you have a right to negotiate some of the conditions of your work?”


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