Northwestern appeals NLRB ruling that athletes are employees

The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and can unionize.

Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter — shown here rolling out to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during a 2012 game — testified on behalf of the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Northwestern University is asking the National Labor Relations Board to overturn a regional director’s ruling that the school’s football players are employees under federal law and thus entitled to unionize.

The university filed a formal appeal board Wednesday, saying it had presented “overwhelming evidence” that its athletic program “is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first.”

The players are set to vote by secret ballot April 25 on whether to form a union after petitioning for the ability to do so in late January.

Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma of the College Athletes Players Association met in Washington with members of Congress earlier this month to press their case for unionization.