Stanford's athletic director said Thursday that his school would look at alternatives if college athletes were ruled to be employees of the universities they play for.
Stanford's Bernard Muir spoke in front of a House panel Thursday on the possible unionization of college athletes. After the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern players had the right to unionize, the school appealed the decision to the national office.
"I just know that from our board of trustees, our president, our provost, the Stanford culture, it just wouldn't be appropriate to deem student-athletes as employees," Muir told USA Today. "We would deem that inappropriate, so for that purpose we would have to look at other alternatives."
Those alternatives would be things like refusing to compete at the Division I level. Muir brought that up at the panel meeting, saying Stanford "might opt not to compete at the level we are competing in."
Stanford, like Northwestern, is a private school, so an upholding of the Northwestern ruling could affect the university. Northwestern's players voted in April whether or not to unionize. The results of that election won't be known until after the appeals process is over.
"The list of grievances these players presented is a list that could have been presented five years ago, 10 years ago," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. said at the House meeting Thursday. "And they haven't been addressed. … We've been over this and over this and over this. … You can rail against unionization, but you better address the problem. This is college sports, not the NCAA. … You can keep defending it, but I'd work on changing it."
And while most outside of NCAA offices can agree that change is needed to the system, the key question is still how that change can happen. Is unionization the answer? Depending on the outcome of the vote, Northwestern's players may not even think so. It's why a Stanford threat seems preposterous at the moment.
Sure, it sounds scary, but there's a small likelihood at this point of anything changing anytime soon. Plus, as a firmly entrenched member of the Pac-12, Stanford is a member of the big five conferences looking to get more autonomy.
A Senate committee hearing is scheduled next week about the same issues, and Ed O'Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, is scheduled to speak in front of it. While his testimony in front of Congress may not change much, his lawsuit could be the real catalyst for change. His lawsuit contending that college players should receive a stake in the money colleges receive off their athletes' likenesses is scheduled to go to trial next month.
The O'Bannon case is scheduled to go to trial next month.
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