• Loading stock data...
Saturday, February 24, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venue Awards increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

Stage Set For Federal Labor Decision on College Athlete Employment Status

  • On Wednesday, a hearing concluded in the potentially historic case regarding the Dartmouth men’s basketball team’s attempt to unionize.
  • The next step: The NLRB’s regional director will issue a written decision.
A hearing concluded in the NLRB hearing over when Dartmouth men's basketball players can unionize.
Doug Austin/Dartmouth Athletics

On Wednesday, a hearing concluded in the potentially historic case regarding the Dartmouth men’s basketball team’s attempt to unionize through the National Labor Relations Board. The petition for unionization, supported by the Service Employees International Union, was first filed in September.

During four days of testimony, lawyers for both athletes and the school argued whether the players could be considered employees of their school — and therefore whether the NCAA’s entire amateurism model is void. 

If the athletes are ultimately allowed to form a union, they’ll set a new legal precedent for schools nationwide. 

In the coming weeks, the NLRB’s regional director will issue a written decision about whether athletes can go forward with a union election.

If allowed to hold a union election, athletes will likely cast their ballots at some point before Dec. 25, attorneys agreed. But both sides will have the attempt to file an appeal — meaning the issue may not be decided for months.

The Dartmouth lawyers used multiple witnesses — all of whom were Dartmouth employees, and at least one of whom was a current athletics department employee — to establish that college athletes are not professionals. 

As an Ivy League school, Dartmouth operates somewhat differently than other Division I schools: Ivy League schools offer more restrictions on eligibility and do not offer athletic scholarships. They also make much less revenue than more visible Division I programs. 

Dartmouth’s lawyers attempted to use this distinction to show that Dartmouth’s men’s basketball players are not treated like university employees, even if other D-I athletes may be.

Dartmouth’s witnesses spoke about ways athletes are considered “students” first — like how they’re expected to prioritize attending class over practice — and how amateur club sports are similar to varsity athletics. 

During a rebuttal at the end of the trial, Dartmouth’s lawyers also attempted to redirect any blame about the “amateurism” designation the Ivy League and NCAA by showing that Dartmouth simply enforces rules imposed upon it by those entities.

The athletes’ lawyer focused almost his entire case on the testimony of current men’s basketball player Cade Haskins. 

Haskins described the realities of playing at the Division I level: that athletes’ schedules are completely controlled by coaches while on the road; that they spend at least 20 hours a week on their sport; and that they’re required to attend fundraising events for the athletic department and sign away their name, image, and likeness rights for the school to use in several instances. 

He also addressed the athletic department’s claim that athletes prioritize going to class over games.

“In reality, is that what happens?” the players’ lawyer asked him.

He replied, simply: “No.”

During cross-examination, the athletes’ lawyer was able to get multiple school officials to concede that it is possible for a student to also be an employee of the university. A particularly strong example: team managers, who are students paid to work in the athletic department.

Dartmouth men’s basketball players are more likely to succeed in their effort in this current climate, where the NLRB’s general counsel has stated publicly that she believes many college athletes should be employees.

They are also building on a case where Northwestern football players attempted to unionize in 2014. The NLRB ultimately declined to rule on the case on a technicality — not because it found the players to be amateurs.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Michigan defensive lineman Kenneth Grant celebrates a sack on Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the second quarter during the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Pay-for-Play Is Here: Federal Judge Says NCAA Cannot Enforce Any NIL Rules

The ruling effectively allows pay-for-play to go forward uninhibited.

Caitlin Clark Passes Shedeur Sanders To Top Fanatics’ NIL-Era Sales

The Iowa guard took the spot hours after her record-breaking game against Michigan Thursday.
Caitlin Clark

Milestone Missed: Caitlin Clark Broke a Record. NBC Blew an Opportunity

NBC skipped an opportunity to put women’s college basketball history in front of hundreds of millions of homes.
Nov 25, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly reacts after the game against the California Golden Bears at Rose Bowl.

Coaches Hate the Transfer Portal. But Their Coaching Carousel Is Making the Problem Worse

Thirty head football coaches have left or were fired from their positions.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game


Featured Today

Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.
February 18, 2024

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Portland, OR
Caitlin Clark

Big Ten Women’s Tournament Sells Out for First Time

‘Clarkonomics’ has made it to the postseason.
Nick Saban
February 22, 2024

Coaches Aren’t Happy With College Football—Some Are Getting Out While They Can

NIL and the transfer portal have many college football coaches getting new jobs.
February 22, 2024

Making Sense of What More CFP Expansion Would Mean

Leaders of the CFP discussed the potential for a 14- and even 16-team Playoff.

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
February 22, 2024

‘Treated Like Children’: College Football Players Offered $600 to Be in Video Game, No Royalties

Players may be receiving lower than the industry standard with the video game’s return.
EA Sports
February 22, 2024

EA Sports Offers Players $600 To Be In New College Football Game

The deal comes with a free copy of the game but without royalties.
Angel Reese
February 21, 2024

Angel Reese Denied ‘Bayou Barbie’ Trademark

No need to ‘unnecessarily instigate Mattel,’ lawyer says.
February 20, 2024

New Salary Records for Colorado Football Assistant Coaches

The 10 assistants will make a combined $4.65 million this year, a school record.