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Northwestern’s restrictions on football players ruled unlawful

01 OCT 2016: The Northwestern football team takes the field before a Big Ten football game between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Northwestern won, 38-31. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)
Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declared Monday that Northwestern University and other private colleges must eliminate “unlawful” rules governing athletes and allow them greater freedom to express themselves, according to ESPN.

The ruling, which ironically refers to players as employees, found that they must be allowed to freely express themselves on social media, discuss issues of their health and safety and be permitted to speak with the media.

These new rules do not apply to public schools because the NLRB only controls relationships between private employers and their employees, but schools such as Northwestern, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Baylor must now follow these new guidelines.

Those four universities and 13 other private schools (17 total) will no longer be able to ban players from posting on social media or regulate what they say. Several high-profiled private universities have done this in the past. Northwestern is notorious for preventing players from speaking to media not approved by the school. That violation of freedom is no longer permitted either.

Additionally, the NLRB ruling will offer athletes an independent agency outside the school, conference or NCAA to bring any problems to light.

Although this ruling did not address the issue of compensation for athletes, it is a huge stepping stone towards achieving that ultimate goal. Players can now hypothetically file a charge with the NLRB claiming that failing to pay athletes is considered an unfair labor practice. If preventing players from posting on social media and speaking with the media is now considered an unfair labor practice, one could easily argue no compensation for athletes should also count as an unfair labor practice.

Until now, the issue of paying athletes has only been contested in antitrust courts.

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