Dartmouth’s men’s basketball players are university employees, according to NLRB
The GIST: On Monday, a NLRB regional director ruled that under U.S. labor law, Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team members are considered the school’s employees, the first nail in the coffin for the NCAA’s beleaguered amateurism model.
How we got here: In September 2023, the 15 Dartmouth teammates filed a petition with the NLRB to unionize, hoping to be reclassified as employees to receive compensation and healthcare benefits (especially considering Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships). In an op-ed for the student paper, the players referred to the current model as a “brazen exploitation of athlete labor.”
- And the Big Green aren’t alone in challenging the status quo: Several groups are currently pursuing paydays and other worker protections from their institutions.
What it means: As employees, Dartmouth’s men’s hoopers now have entitlements to wages, healthcare benefits, and other employment standards, including the right to unionize. More importantly, nothing prevents every Division I (DI) athlete from pursuing a similar setup.
- In response, Dartmouth argued it can’t afford to pay its athletes and will likely appeal to the NLRB’s national board, which notably blocked Northwestern football players’ 2014 unionization attempt. But that denial was based on a technicality, which may not apply here.
What’s next: If the ruling holds, the precedent would signal the end of the amateurism model as we know it. What does this mean for female athletes? Critics worry that added expenses of athlete wages will sink women’s and nonrevenue sports like gymnastics, soccer, and more.
- But Title IX — which requires schools to provide equal opportunities based on sex — still protects female athletes, so for now, there’s nothing to do but watch this space.