It was only a matter of time before Congress got involved.
The House Education and Workforce Committee (funny how they are put together, isn’t it?) has scheduled a hearing for Thursday, May 8 at 10 a.m. to examine the NLRB’s decision to declare Northwestern football players employees rather than students.
“The NLRB’s decision represents a radical departure from longstanding federal labor policies,” said committee Chairman John Kline (Rep.-Minn.). “Classifying student athletes as employees threatens to fundamentally alter college sports, as well as reduce education access and opportunity. The committee has a responsibility to thoroughly examine how the NLRB’s decision will affect students and their ability to receive a quality education.”
Congress, of course, routinely has hearings on any and everything they might be interested in. This could be for show like some of the steroid hearings were, or it could be the predecessor to proposing some form of legislation or amendment to the National Labor Relations Act specifically to settle this matter one way or the other.
It is not certain who the committee will invite to testify on this matter. I assume Ramogi Huma and Kain Colter will be invited and Huma will certainly attend. It would not surprise me if Mark Emmert receives an invite and that some representative from the NCAA attends. I highly doubt Pat Fitzgerald will don a suit and provide his testimony to the committee, but I am sure he will get the invite too.
It is really uncertain what will come out of this hearing. It is likely an information-gathering exercise as Congress will pull its weight on this debate. There is certainly a concern in regards to following Title IX interpretations and ensuring there are equal opportunities for all when it comes to college athletics and spending on college athletics. There is also a paternal concern for the well-being of 18-21 year olds and ensuring they get the educational opportunities their scholarship promises them.
Like I have said throughout this process, we and no one really knows what the future holds for the NCAA’s amateur athlete model after the NLRB decision. The decision is still under review from the Big Board and all the parties await that decision before proceeding any further.
Congress will ask its questions and try to shed more light on what the repercussions might be as they mull some action.