Big-Time College Athletes’ Status As Employees

ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, 33 (1), 31-53, 2018

24 Pages Posted: 8 May 2018

Date Written: April 21, 2018


This article addresses the legal status of FBS football and Division I men’s basketball players as employees. Part I analyzes the application of the National Labor Relations Act to these athletes, viewed through the lens of professional athletes. Part II addresses National Labor Relations Board precedent regarding college students’ employment status from the 1970s through the 2016 Columbia University decision that student assistants are statutory employees. Although the status of graduate student assistants as employees may be on fragile ground under a Republican-majority NLRB, this historical framework is relevant for understanding why grant-in-aid athletes should be viewed as statutory employees. Part II also analyzes the decisions of the NLRB and its Regional Director in Northwestern University. Part III discusses application of state workers’ compensation statutes and the Fair Labor Standards Act to college athletes and explains how their employment status under the NLRA relates to rights under these statutes.

Keywords: college athletes, employee status, labor law, workers' compensation

Suggested Citation

Karcher, Richard T., Big-Time College Athletes’ Status As Employees (April 21, 2018). ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, 33 (1), 31-53, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Richard T. Karcher (Contact Author)

Eastern Michigan University ( email )

318 Porter Building
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
United States
(734) 487-9134 (Phone)

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