College football players petition to become employees - WNEM TV 5

College football players petition to become employees

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It's no secret professional athletes make a lot of money.

But what about college athletes?

It's an argument being rekindled as Northwestern University visits Michigan State University this weekend.

A possible match-up of employees versus students is being kicked around the gridiron when the Wildcats face the Spartans this weekend.

In a move being watched by universities across the country, Northwestern University is changing its handbook. It happened after football players petitioned to the National Labor Relations Board claiming there were employee type restrictions place on them.

The university's changes now bring into play if this move makes the athletes employees.

"At this time there is no ruling from the NLRB that signifies Northwestern's football players are employees," said Josh Leadford, labor attorney for Masud Labor Law Group.

He said the labor board dismissed the athletes right to unionize, but didn't rule on the question regarding their employee status. The university's handbook changes are to prevent further legal action against the school.

Before athletes were restricted from posting anything personal on social media that could embarrass them, their family, their team or the university. Not, it's freeing up what can be posted and getting much more specific saying athletes can't post nudity, racial or sexual abuse, underage drinking, drugs, weapons, hazing or harassment.

On top of the social media changes, players can now talk about their health. Athletes can also talk to the media now. Before they couldn't do so unless an interview was arranged through the school's communication office.

Leadford said the issue won't ever affect Michigan's universities.

"Michigan law actually covers unionization for public sector employees and in Michigan the term employee under that law specifically excludes college athletes," he said.

Leadford said this could be significant for private universities if the labor board ever deems athletes employees.

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