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Northwestern releases statement on NLRB ruling

From left former Northwestern University football quarterback KaColter Ramogi Humfounder President National College Players AssociatiTim Waters Political Director United Steel

From left, former Northwestern University football quarterback Kain Colter, Ramogi Huma, founder and President of the National College Players Association and Tim Waters, Political Director of the United Steel Workers, arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April, 2, 2014. Members of a group seeking to unionize college athletes are looking for allies on Capitol Hill as they brace for an appeal of a ruling that said full scholarship athletes at Northwestern University are employees who have the right to form a union. Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter _ the face of a movement to give college athletes the right to unionize _ and Ramogi Huma, the founder and president of the National College Players Association, scheduled meetings Wednesday with lawmakers. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)o)

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Updated: April 17, 2014 11:47AM

The College Athletes Players Association submitted a brief on Wednesday asking the full National Labor Relations Board not to grant review of the Chicago regional director’s ruling that entitles Northwestern players to unionize, should they elect to do so.

In response, Northwestern released a statement iterating much of what it has said the past several weeks—again underscoring that the regional director ignored what the university deems to be key evidence.

The statement, which came from Vice President for University Relations Alan Cubbage, maintains that athletic participation is “part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity.” However, participation in athletics is not required of the entire student body nor are student-athletes given course credit for their participation.

Northwestern’s full statement follows:

Northwestern University believes that the recent ruling by the regional National Labor Relations Board director that Northwestern scholarship football players are employees and may be represented by a union was flawed, because it overlooked or ignored key evidence that Northwestern presented showing that its student-athletes are primarily students, not employees.

The decision by the regional director improperly refused to apply the legal precedent established in the NLRB’s 2004 decision in Brown University, in which the NLRB held that the graduate assistants were primarily students, not employees.

In addition, the decision by the regional director ignored key evidence that Northwestern presented at the recent hearing in Chicago, specifically regarding the fact that academics is the primary mission of Northwestern for all of its students, including student-athletes. Northwestern football players have a 97 percent graduation rate, the highest among FBS schools in the country. We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity.

Northwestern has appealed the regional director’s decision to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. The University will continue to explore all of its legal options in regard to this issue. Although CAPA filed a brief with the NLRB today urging the Board to refuse to hear the University’s appeal of the regional director’s decision, the University is confident that the Board will grant review and decide the appeal on its merits. In all likelihood, the process will take some time and it could be months before the Board issues its decision on whether Northwestern’s scholarship football players are students or employees.

We agree that there currently are important issues regarding college athletics nationally and that students should have a voice in those discussions. However, we believe that a collective bargaining process at Northwestern would not advance the discussion of these topics, in large part because most of the issues being raised by the union are outside the purview of Northwestern.

Northwestern is committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all of its students, including its student-athletes. The University provides primary or secondary medical coverage for all of its student-athletes for at least a year after they no longer are eligible to participate in intercollegiate sports -- and beyond if applicable. Athletic Department staff members also offer extensive support and personalized attention for all student-athletes in nutrition, health and exercise training.

Northwestern is proud of our students for raising these issues. Northwestern teaches its students to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world. Our student-athletes already have a strong voice at Northwestern via a Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the Leadership Council for the football team. We have worked with our students in the past to address these issues and we will continue to do so.

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