Can college sports teams unionize? We’re about to find out.

September 23, 2023 – Media Mention
Business Insider

Irwin Kishner, co-chair of Herrick's Sports Law Group, spoke to Business Insider about the Dartmouth Men's basketball team's petition to unionize, which was filed earlier this month. 

The article cites to an opinion piece written by some of the players noting that the players "are unionizing to be compensated like other student employees, with hourly wages similar to other student wages on campus or scholarships." The article further notes that the filing comes two years after the NCAA granted college athletes the right to make money off of the name, image and likeness ("NIL"). 

The ability to unionize would allow student athletes to collectively bargain for improved workplace conditions and even compensation. However, according to the article, "[t]he case for unionizing college sports teams is a precarious one, as athletes face significant barriers under federal labor law." However, a pending National Labor Relations Board case brought by the National College Players Association that will be heard by an administrative law judge this November could potentially open the floodgates for college teams to unionize if the judge finds that various entities have violated athletes' rights by not considering them employees. 

In discussing the shifting labor landscape, Kishner pointed out that one of the important considerations will be the repercussions that come with considering student athletes employees. It's possible not all college athletes will be in favor of such a thing. 

Kishner also highlighted that the label could give coaches the ability to fire at will or cause universities to cut low-profit teams because of increased expenses. 

"There's a litany of things that come from being an employee and there's a litany of things that come from not being an employee," Kishner stated. "To get them all down on a piece of paper at this juncture to predict where all this lands would be very difficult." 

Kisher concluded by noting that it could be years before we know the fate of the union bid by the Dartmouth men's basketball players.

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