An unfair labor practice complaint has been filed against Northwestern contending the school has violated federal law by misclassifying all of its players as student-athletes.
The complaint was sent to the National Labor Relations Board by Michael Hsu in his role as head of the College Basketball Players Association (CBPA). Hsu said he was motivated by Northwestern calling players student-athletes during its current investigation into hazing allegations regarding head football coach Pat Fitzgerald.
"Because of all this stuff coming up at Northwestern, some of it is not employment related … [but] it's a good time to basically look at things," Hsu told CBS Sports. "The question many people are asking -- not just me -- is, 'Hey, look, if they were found to be employees, maybe this stuff was avoidable.' I'm going to kind of give the NLRB a chance to look at that."
As part of the complaint, Hsu attached a copy of Saturday's Daily Northwestern story detailing the alleged hazing.
"Student-athlete" is a term that was embraced by the NCAA in a 1950s case as an attempt to legally avoid paying workmen's compensation benefits paid to the widow of a college football player who died because of his game injuries.
"This is the aspect of trying to chill [players] from understanding and believing that they have real rights as student athletes instead of employees," Hsu said. "This [complaint] is just to open the door and let the NLRB do whatever they want to do. I hope they don't dismiss it."
A similar case progressed to the point that, USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA. An administrative law trial in November will decide whether those entities must "cease and desist from misclassifying" football and men's and women's basketball players as student-athletes., the NLRB filed an unfair labor practice complaint against
When the trial date was set, Tulane law professor told CBS Sports the action "brings us one step closer to the unionization of college athletes."
A flurry of complaints were expected after NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued aexplaining why athletes should be classified as employees.
In 2015, the NLRB regional director concluded that Northwestern football players were employees, but the NLRB did not take jurisdiction of the case. The regional director at that time, Peter Sung Ohr, is now the NLRB deputy general counsel.
That celebrated Northwestern case only dealt with football players attending private schools. The upcoming trial is much more wide ranging with USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA being labeled as "joint employers." That means employee status could conceivably spread throughout the Pac-12 and beyond with USC moving to the Big Ten in 2024.
That case could drag on for years if, as expected, it is contended by the accused. The next step is for the NLRB to respond in the next few weeks to Hsu's latest complaint.