NLRB levels Complaint Against USC, Pac-12, and NCAA, bringing a multibillion-dollar enterprise one step close to unionization.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged in a complaint that the University of Southern California (USC), the Pac-12, and the National Collegiate Athletics Associations (NCAA) are joint employers and willfully misclassify their football players, men’s basketball players, and women’s basketball players as “non-employee student athletes” to discourage them from engaging in protected activities such as unionization. The complaint calls for USC, the Pac-12, and the NCAA to reclassify those athletes as “employees” in their handbooks and rules.
The employment-status of college athletes is the most pressing issue facing the world of college sports and threatens to upend the foundation of the multibillion-dollar industry. For decades, the NCAA has argued that amateurism - a model in which college athletes get 0% of the revenue generated by their sports – was necessary to maintain the value and integrity of college athletics.
However, as coaching salaries have ballooned and TV deals for college sports approach nearly $10 billion, the amateurism model is increasingly seen as exploitative and has come under increasing scrutiny, leading some experts to expect the model to collapse under mounting pressure in federal courts and state legislatures.
If the NCAA’s amateurism model were to collapse, whether due to the aforementioned pressures or NLRB complaints, the repercussions would be monumental, prompting questions of how to compensate over 500,000 NCAA athletes, 85% of which live below the poverty line.
According to the NLRB’s complaint, a hearing on their case is scheduled for November 7, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.