Eric Macramalla Discusses Northwestern’s Football Players Qualifying as a Union
Eric Macramalla, legal analyst at the Sport Network (TSN), joined Jeff Thurn on Thursday’s edition of Overtime on ESPN 99.1 to discuss a new rule that allows Northwestern’s football players to unionize.
Officially on Wednesday, the Chicago District of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Northwestern football players can qualify as employees as the university and unionize.
Macramalla discusses what this means:
“Well, they might have been frustrated, I was annoyed because I just had my fantasy baseball pool and it got over at 11 at night. I see this thing on my Blackberry, and say, ‘Come on now, I have to read this?’ You read it and I can understand the confusion, but bottom line is this guy named Peter Ohr, he works for the national labor relations board and that is a U.S Federal Agency that deals with labor law, and it made people form unions. They found that the players at Northwestern weren’t athletes first, but actually employees. There was an employer-employer relationship with Northwestern and as a result, because the players were characterized as employees, not just students, they are allowed to create a union on that basis, and once you create a union, then you can collectively bargain with the university, that is to start asking for stuff, very much like Marvin Miller did, the head of MLBPA in the late 1960’s when he created the union, then from there the entire sports landscaped in North America changed dramatically.”
Macramalla on how strong this union could become:
“I think the strength of a union is determined on how disruptive it can be to an existing business model. I mean you aren’t going to have college athletes sign four-year deals at ten million a year. You aren’t going to have a Johnny Manziel doing that, but a union comprised of athletes in the NCAA can be disruptive. So, I think it gain make a lot of gains for a lot of players because the NCAA business model is very simple: we pay you by way of a scholarship, and you sign a way everything, including your likeness, your face. You cannot do anything, you cannot go the bathroom unless you have our permission, you cannot live off-campus if you are a sophomore or freshman at Northwestern. There are restricted social media policies. If a coach friends you at Northwestern, you actually have to friend them back. You cannot ignore it. You cannot get a job off-campus, you cannot swear or embarrass Northwestern, you can be suspended and a second offense can result in a one-year suspension. You have to wear a suit to a game and be a in a six hour radius of campus prior to football games. So, there’s all these massive controls in place and that’s one of the reasons, why this guy, Ohr, says hang on a second, you are calling them athletes, but they have all these massive controls. They cannot even walk without your permission. This to me sounds like an employement-employmee relationship, and on top of that you are paying them very much like an employer would do or suspend, hire or fire them. Those three things, hire, fire and compensation sounds like an employment-employer relationship, so you know what, I’m going to call it what is and that is exactly what it is. So, I think this is potentially a historic decision, and dramatically change the landscape if ever saw all the way through because what you are saying the players are no are employees and no longer athletes and can start asking for a whole bunch of stuff.”
To hear more of Macramalla’s interview with Thurn, listen below:
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Catch Thurn weekday’s on ESPN 99.1 in Sioux Falls from 3 to 6 p.m.