Dartmouth's Basketball Vote May Change College Athletics

Team voted to a form a union, posing an 'existential crisis' to NCAA model
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 5, 2024 12:41 PM CST
Dartmouth Basketball Team Just Voted to Form a Union
Dartmouth's Romeo Myrthil, left, stands next to Duke's Caleb Foster a game in Durham, N.C., Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Myrthil is one of the union organizers.   (AP Photo/Ben McKeown, File)

The Dartmouth men's basketball team voted to unionize Tuesday in an unprecedented step toward forming the first labor union for college athletes, per the AP. The Wall Street Journal calls it a "seismic move for college sports and its century-old insistence that athletes are playing, not working when they compete for their schools." In an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board in the school's Human Resources offices, the players voted 13-2 to join Service Employees International Union Local 560, which already represents some Dartmouth workers. Every player on the roster participated.

The school has five business days to file an objection to the NLRB and could also take the matter to federal court. That could delay negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement until long after the current members of the basketball team have graduated. Both the Ivy League and the NCAA might fight the move as well, notes the Journal. "It could be an existential crisis for the NCAA," Rebecca Kolins Givan, a labor professor at Rutgers University, tells Quartz. "The NCAA will have to flip its own rules to comply with the law, allowing member universities to pay athletes deemed private employees," writes Bratton.

Although the NCAA has long maintained that its players are "student-athletes" who were in school primarily to study, college sports has grown into a multibillion dollar industry that richly rewards the coaches and schools while the players remained unpaid amateurs. Recent court decisions have chipped away at that framework, with players now allowed to profit off their name, image, and likeness and earn a still-limited stipend for living expenses beyond the cost of attendance. (More Dartmouth stories.)

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