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NCAA president blasts movement to unionize college athletes

  • By Dan Parr
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Darron Cummings / Associated Press
NCAA president Mark Emmert slammed college athletes' efforts to form a union.

NCAA President Mark Emmert called the movement for college athletes to unionize a "grossly inappropriate" strategy at a press conference Sunday in Arlington, Texas, which is hosting this year's men's basketball Final Four.

"To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems," Emmert said, per The Kansas City Star. "To convert to a unionized employee model is essentially to throw away the entire collegiate model for athletics. You can't split that one in two. You're either a student at a university playing your sports or you're an employee of that university."

In a ruling that cleared the way for Northwestern football players to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board said last month that the Wildcats players should be treated as student employees, and not student-athletes. Clearly, that is a ruling Emmert didn't like very much, and neither did Northwestern University, which has said it will appeal the decision.

Emmert is free to share his views as forcefully as he'd like, but the power to determine whether he or college athletes is right on this issue is in the hands of the NLRB right now, and it has determined the law is on the side of the athletes.

The process of appeals could be a long one, and given the threat it poses to change the NCAA in huge ways, we should expect to hear plenty more talk like this from Emmert and others with the NCAA and universities, who don't want to be forced to collectively bargain with college athletes, in the months -- perhaps even years -- to come.

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