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Northwestern appeals NLRB ruling classifying football players as employees


Northwestern University on Wednesday filed an appeal asking the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington to overturn a ruling that classified the school's scholarship football players as university employees.

NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr in Chicago overlooked or ignored evidence that shows football players at Evanston, Ill.-based Northwestern are primarily students, rather than workers, the university said in a statement.

“Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first,” Northwestern said in the statement.

A copy of Northwestern’s appeal brief was posted online.

Mr. Ohr ruled last month that Northwestern’s scholarship football players are employees of the university and should be allowed to vote on whether to unionize. The College Athletes Players Association is working to organize the players.

Mr. Ohr found that Northwestern’s walk-on football players do not qualify as employees because they do not receive compensation for their services.

Experts have said they expect college athletes to be covered by university workers compensation programs, as well as to be eligible for other university employee benefits, if Mr. Ohr’s ruling is upheld by the NLRB in Washington.