Union leader: Multibillion-dollar NCAA antitrust settlement won't slow efforts to unionize players

BOSTON — Efforts to unite college athletes will continue, advocates said Friday, even with the NCAA's landmark agreement to have players paid from a limited revenue-sharing pool.

“With this settlement, the NCAA continues to do everything it can to prevent competition in the open market, which is most appropriate in this case,” said Chris Peck, the president of the local organization that won the right to recruit Dartmouth men's basketball players to represent – ​​a first. for a college sports team. “The attempt at a revenue sharing solution only supports our contention that the NCAA and Dartmouth continue to engage in a form of disguised employment.”

The NCAA and Power Five conferences agreed to an antitrust settlement this week that will pay $2.77 billion to a class of current and former players who were unable to capitalize on their skills because of longstanding amateurism rules in college sports. The settlement also allows — but does not require — schools to set aside about $21 million per year to share with players.

What the agreement did not address was whether players are employees — and therefore have the right to negotiate their terms of employment — or “student-athletes” who participate in extracurricular activities, much like members of the Glee Club or Model United Nations. In the Dartmouth case, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that schools exerted so much control over men's basketball players that they met the legal definition of employees.

The players then voted 13-2 to join Local 560 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents some other Dartmouth employees, and asked the school to begin negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement; the school refused, sparking even more lawsuits. The NCAA is also lobbying Congress to intervene and declare that players are not employees.

The NCAA and conference leaders in a joint statement called on Congress to pass legislation that would protect them from future legal challenges.

“The settlement, while undesirable in many ways and promising only temporary stability, is necessary to prevent the bankruptcy of college athletics,” said Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins. “To save America's great college sports institution, Congress must pass legislation that anticipates the current patchwork of state laws; establishing that our athletes are not employees, but students seeking a college degree; and provide protection from further antitrust lawsuits that will enable colleges to make and enforce rules that will protect our student-athletes and help ensure competitiveness among our teams.”

The Dartmouth union said the best way for college athletic leaders to avoid continued instability and antitrust liability is to collectively bargain with players.

“The solution is not a special exception or more regulation from Congress that further undermines labor standards, but instead, NCAA member universities must follow the same antitrust and labor laws as everyone else,” Peck said. “Only through collective bargaining could NCAA members obtain the antitrust relief they seek.”

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Jimmy Golen covers sports and law for The Associated Press.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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