Policy: Labor

GOP senator says NLRB college sports ruling endangers women's Title IX sports

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Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Thursday that a recent ruling by a National Labor Relations Board regional director in favor of college sports unionization is a threat to college athletics in general and to women's sports under Title IX in particular.

In a joint speech on the Senate floor, Alexander and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said that while there were were problems with intercollegiate athletics, unionization was not the answer. Allowing players in top college sports to demand more funding will drain resources elsewhere, Alexander said. The wealthier schools might be fine, but others would not.

"What is going to happen to the smaller schools? What is going to happen to the minor sports? What is going to happen to the Title IX women's sports if, for some reason, a union forces universities to have a much more expensive athletic program for a few sports?" Alexander said.

He added later: "The NCAA has talked about issues like, 'Should we provide more expense money for athletes?' I mentioned earlier that 40 percent of them have Pell grants, which could go up to $5,600 a year in addition to the $55,000 to $60,000 of football scholarship (money). So think about that. That was considered by the NCAA and voted down because the small schools said, 'It will hurt us ... we'll have to drop women's programs.' So this is more complicated than it would seem at first."

On March 26, an NLRB regional director ruled that because Northwestern University football players received scholarship money and were subject to special rules that did not apply to other university students, they were in fact "employees" of the college, and not "primarily students." A union election is now set for April 25. Northwestern has appealed the ruling to the full board.

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