Washington Law Review


Grant-in-aid athletes in revenue-generating sports at Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) institutions are not "student-athletes" as the NCAA asserts, but are, instead, "employees" under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). To be an employee under that Act, these athletes must meet both the common law test and a statutory test applicable to university students. In applying the common law test to athletes, we describe their daily lives through interviews with current and former Division I grant-in-aid athletes. These interviews demonstrate that their daily burdens and obligations not only meet the legal standard of employee, but far exceed the burdens and obligations of most university employees. In addressing the statutory definition of the term employee, we demonstrate that the relationship between these athletes and their universities is not primarily academic, but is, instead, undeniably commercial. As employees under the NLRA, these athletes are entitled "to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." Consequently, they will be able to acquire bargaining power through collective association and to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment, including wages not arbitrarily limited to the level of athletic scholarships.

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