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NLRB Pursuing Charges of Unfair Labor Practices Against USC, NCAA, Pac-12

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 15, 2022

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  A high angle view of the Pac-12 logo on the field of Stanford Stadium before a Pac-12 college football game between the USC Trojans and the Stanford Cardinal played on September 10, 2022 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
David Madison/Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board's Los Angeles region has ruled in favor of USC football and basketball players seeking legal employment recognition, per Daniel Libit of Sportico.

The National College Players Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA on behalf of the athletes, and the NLRB found "merit" in it in Thursday's ruling.

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in a statement that all three bodies have "maintained unlawful rules and unlawfully misclassified scholarship basketball and football players as mere 'student-athletes' rather than employees entitled to protections under our law."

NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma said, "Gaining employee status and the right to organize is an important part in ending NCAA sports business practices that illegally exploit college athletes' labor."

Huma previously helped lead a unionization effort by Northwestern athletes.

While the NLRB's Chicago region ruled in 2014 that Northwestern football players should be considered employees, the national NLRB board declined to assert jurisdiction. Per Libit, though, it would have to assert jurisdiction with this case since it came through an unfair labor practices charge.

Barring a settlement, this case will go before an administrative law judge. Any findings from the judge can be appealed to the national NLRB board.

Thursday's ruling comes after the NCAA announced that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will take over for the departing Mark Emmert as the organization's president March 1.

It is a new era for college sports thanks to name, image and likeness rules that allow athletes to make money, and Baker will be juggling how to proceed under such a system.

Thursday's ruling in regards to USC could be another challenge for the NCAA.

Baker has a background in politics, and Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported those involved in the search saw him as "uniquely suited to the NCAA's present needs" because of a track record of "successfully forging bipartisan solutions to complex problems."

There will likely need to be a number of solutions reached as the NIL era continues, and Thursday's ruling could create another situation that has to be navigated by all sides.