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Labor board: Under the law college football players are school employees

WASHINGTON (ABC News) - It's a ruling that could change college sports. The National Labor Relations Board says football players at Northwestern University have the right to form a union. The NLRB says the university uses employer-like control of the players.
WASHINGTON (ABC News) - It's a ruling that could change college sports. The National Labor Relations Board says football players at Northwestern University have the right to form a union. The NLRB says the university uses employer-like control of the players.

This could be a game changer for college sports.

Yesterday a regional director of the national labor relations board said that under the law - Northwestern University scholarship football players are school employees and that means they have the right to form a union.

“Significant step - revolution in the true sense of the word, first time this has come about,” says Robert Kheel, adjunct professor at Columbia University School of Law.

Under this decision, college athletes could negotiate with their universities about payments...healthcare...safety...even go on strike.

Former wildcat quarterback Kain Colter was the driving force behind the push to unionize.

“Today has been a huge success for not only [Northwestern] football but for college players around the nation,” said Colter in a phone interview with ESPN.

Northwestern University plans to appeal the decision to the full labor relations board in Washington.

The university said in a statement it believes "Our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."

But this could be a tipping point.

There are several lawsuits pending against the NCAA athletes looking for more than just a scholarship but also a cut of the billions of dollars they helped bring into the NCAA.

A recent ABC News Washington Post poll found that Americans are evenly divided on whether student athletes should be able to create a union-like the pros.

But when it comes to paying college athletes the public is overwhelmingly opposed.

This could be a long process. Legal experts say the Northwestern case could end up before the Supreme Court.

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