This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) exercised its discretion to decline jurisdiction in a case involving Northwestern University scholarship football players.  The union representation petition filed by the College Athletes Players Association was dismissed.

Over 25 amici briefs were filed with the NLRB for consideration in this case.  Clearly, the potential unionization of scholarship college athletes is a big deal and could have ramifications throughout the country.  Northwestern University, as well as several of the amici briefs argued the NLRB should exercise its discretion to decline jurisdiction over college athletics, because it would not accomplish the basic purposes of the National Labor Relations Act (Act).

In its analysis of the facts, the NLRB indicated although Northwestern University is an “employer” as defined by the Act, the other 13 colleges included in the Big Ten Conference are all state-run institutions over which the NLRB has no authority because they are not considered “employers” under the Act.  Additionally, the NLRB stated, “…the scholarship players do not fit into any analytical framework that the Board has used in cases involving other types of students or athletes…”  Therefore, the NLRB concluded asserting jurisdiction in this case would not serve to promote stability in labor relations.

The NLRB was very clear its decision to decline jurisdiction was strictly based on the facts before them, and any changes in the treatment of scholarship football players could outweigh the factors applicable to the current decision, and the issue could be reconsidered in the future.  Nice to see some common sense from the NLRB.