Everybody seems to be against the NCAA these days, which, ironically, could turn out to be very good for college athletes. Last Thursday, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) released the College Athlete Right to Organize (CARO) Act, which is a truly groundbreaking bill in the realm of athlete rights. The NCAA isn’t a fan and quickly wrote a response heavily criticizing the bill on Thursday afternoon. What is the point of the bill and why is the NCAA so upset over it? Here are a five things to know:
Another key factor of the common law test is payment received in exchange for services, which can apply to college athletes who are typically compensated by athletic scholarships. The CARO Act takes this into account and defines a “college athlete employee” as an athlete who “receives any form of direct compensation, including grant-in-aid, from the institution of higher education; and any terms or conditions of such compensation require participation in an intercollegiate sport.” But what about walk-on athletes and Division III athletes who don’t receive athletic financial aid? This is where the NLRB steps in. Under the CARO Act, if an athlete can go to the board and prove that s/he is compensated in any way in exchange for their athletic skill, they have a shot at being granted workplace rights. So if a non-scholarship athlete receives free gear or plane tickets to travel, that athlete has a case, which is good! Walk-on athletes perform valuable services to their teams, like supplementing practice rosters, providing support to their teammates, and even contributing significant playing time in competitions, and DIII athletes often have schedules that are nearly, if not equally, as rigorous as DI athletes. The CARO Act could also extend to NAIA, JUCO, and even club sport athletes if they can prove they are being compensated for their sport.
When most people think of labor negotiations in sports, they’re likely to think of group licensing deals, revenue sharing plans, and even athlete strikes and league lockouts like we’ve seen in professional sports. But workplace rights extend far beyond these areas. For example, when the National Football Players Association launched in 1956, two big areas of concern for those athletes were access to clean uniforms and safer equipment, which were basic health and safety issues, and athletes eventually expanded their demands as time went on. College athlete employees could potentially do the same and bargain for higher-quality healthcare, mental health services, more time for their academics, more say in their travel schedules, and less coach influence on their academic choices. If a women’s union ever launched, those athletes could potentially negotiate with their universities to make sure they comply with Title IX (lots don’t) and ensure they have the same amenities and television exposure as their male counterparts. In 2020, The Women’s National Basketball Players Association formed a social justice council and its latest collective bargaining agreement discusses maternity and childcare benefits, so the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to negotiating.
However, what the NCAA doesn’t consider here is the fact that this bill doesn’t guarantee athletes anything—it’s unlikely to pass and even if it does, athletes must take the lead in unionizing if they so choose. Unions aren’t created overnight and doing so requires a multi-step process. Lots of things could go wrong. An athlete group could lose a union election. The NLRB could deny non-scholarship athletes employee status. Athletes in states that prohibit union activity might have to get involved with state courts. Union-busting is likely to happen—and this is all if the bill passes. The important takeaways are that the CARO Act is re-starting an important conversation that’s unlikely to go away soon and it revealed the NCAA’s true colors in the process.
The NCAA describes itself as “a member-lead organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes,” but it’s clear that an athletic association that’s only interested in protecting its own priorities will never put athletes first. That’s why LRT Sports is dedicated to transparency, honesty, and athlete empowerment.
Katie Lever isn’t a lawyer (so her articles don’t constitute legal advice), but she is a former Division 1 athlete and a current doctoral student at the University of Texas who studies (and tweets about) NCAA discourse. Follow her to keep up with the NCAA on Twitter and Instagram: @LeverFever.
Posted on June 1, 2021 in NCAA Policy & Rules
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
The college process presents a myriad of challenges. Factor in athletics and it becomes even more daunting. Now, add the fact that you have zero experience with sports. What is a the mother of a college bound student-athlete to do? LRT Sports has truly lived up to its promise. It has kept "the college recruiting process honest and easy by providing first hand information about coaches, schools and the recruiting process." Their interviews with current students, coaches, and professional athletes have provided realistic guidance. I am much more informed because of LRT Sports! The coach ratings are the most helpful. LRT Sports interviews allow us to hear from students as to how the adults are impacting not only their athletic experience but also how they are helping to shape their adult self.
The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.