WASHINGTON—Days after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the NCAA’s “amateurism” rules, allowing athletes to receive uncapped education-related benefits from their colleges, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Friday noted growing support for his legislation that would provide collective bargaining rights for college athletes. Murphy and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the College Athlete Right to Organize Act and U.S. Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act is supported by the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Steelworkers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and Advancement of Blacks in Sports. You can read more about the bill here.
“The NCAA’s system of keeping college athletes in poverty while their executives get rich is starting to crumble. It’s great news that the NCAA lost their case in the Supreme Court this week, but the injustices that define college sports will continue if Congress doesn’t act,” said Murphy. “College athletes are employees working 40+ hours a week, and just like other workers, they lose their compensation —or in this case, scholarships— if they refuse to work. My legislation would provide collective bargaining rights for college athletes, giving them the power they need at this critical juncture.”
Below is a roundup of support for the College Athlete Right to Organize:
"The Supreme Court's decision signals a broader understanding that college athletes are workers," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "Congress should act accordingly and ensure that these athletes— and all workers—have the right to collectively bargain over pay and working conditions. And the PRO Act is what's needed to make sure those rights are strong and enforceable."
“With Division I college football programs raking in hundreds of millions a year and paying their coaches in the tens of millions, it’s unconscionable and unacceptable that the workers who create that immense value are barred from bargaining over compensation, safety and schedules. ‘Student-athletes’ is a legal fiction used to justify rampant exploitation of disproportionately Black and Brown workers. Every worker who puts in a mentally and physically grueling day of work should have the right to advocate for their collective interests. We should not have sections of our economy, whether they are hidden from view, or live in prime time, where workers lack basic rights. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act recognizes the plain reality that the NCAA and its supplicants would prefer to cover-up and deny. The Senate should pass it swiftly,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
"The unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in Alston underscores the point that the NCAA's system of restricting and exploiting college players is fundamentally broken. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act would provide a meaningful way for these athletes to assert their rights to a fair system which would compensate them for their economic contribution, enhance their educational opportunities and protect their health and safety," said Jeffrey Kessler, Co-lead Class Counsel for the plaintiffs in NCAA v Alston and Co-Executive Chairman of Winston & Strawn
“Especially in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling against the NCAA in the Alston case, the College Athlete Right to Organize Act is timely and necessary. The NCAA’s policies regarding athlete compensation have been found to violate federal antitrust law, and collective bargaining with the athletes may very well be what saves the NCAA from continuing to violate the law,” said Jay Bilas, attorney, basketball broadcaster and former Duke University basketball player.
“When my collegiate volleyball career ended due to concussions, it was my father’s guild-provided health insurance that allowed me to seek out second opinions and get the medical care I needed. College athletes are both physical laborers and performers and it is high time for these young, talented, diligent, and ambitious workers to have collective bargaining rights. With these rights, college athletes can better advocate for their own interests, work together to achieve change, and begin to regain the basic rights that the NCAA and its cult of amateurism have long kept locked up beyond the athletes’ reach,” said former Stanford volleyball player and college athlete advocate Hayley Hodson.
“The unanimous US Supreme Court decision is a big win for college athletes and has the potential to change college sports forever, especially for Black college athletes in big-money sports. It is critically important that we do not celebrate this historic decision too soon. We echo the sentiments of a recent post on social media by Dr. Harry Edwards that we must focus on implementation. ABIS will continue to advocate for racial equity in sports and keep the pressure on the NCAA, conferences, and member institutions to act in the best interests of college athletes. The time has long since passed for college athletes to benefit fully from their labor. They deserve their fair share with as much autonomy as possible. We applaud Senator Murphy and everyone involved in bringing this vision into focus. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act is an important framework for creating a pathway for college athletes to have the power they need to get their just rewards and the protections they deserve,” said Gary Charles, ABIS CEO and Founder. “ABIS is here to support and empower college athletes now and going forward. This is just the beginning."
"I was thrilled to learn the news that SCOTUS had ruled in favor of athletes today. Athletes often can't pursue majors because of the demands of their sport and this decision will help athletes achieve their educational dreams that the NCAA insists they help facilitate but in reality don't. Alston v NCAA was a win but we can't stop here. Educational compensation is incredible but it won't help athletes that have suffered lifelong injuries. I have friends currently competing in sexually, physically, and mentally abusive situations. There is no option for them to bargain because of the fear they will lose their scholarship. While Senator Murphy and others have done a wonderful job of representing athletes, it is the athletes who need to be at the table with independent representation unaffiliated from the NCAA. Athletes should be able to bargain and guarantee their safety and health. Athletes need to be at the table because as we know the times change quickly and bills become outdated. We waited so long for action that was taken today by SCOTUS. Let's not wait that long again. Let's create a bill that allows the athlete's needs to change with the times and protect/compensate them appropriately,” said former UMass tennis player and college athlete advocate Brittany Collens.
“The court’s decision is a victory for college athletes as it confirms that the NCAA’s archaic amateur business model is unlawful. Now, it will take Congress to compel the NCAA to share its billions in annual revenue with its athletes. One way to accomplish this is to allow the unionization of college athletes. College athletes—regardless of the hours spent participating, the injuries sustained in play, or the revenue generated by their play—have limited or no protections. Recently athletes from NCAA-member universities were asked to sign liability waivers to participate in their sport during the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their lives at a time when students were educated remotely. This action crossed a line: are the athletes students, or employees, mandated to return to work? It is time for college athletes to be properly protected and to receive a ‘fair and reasonable’ share of the revenue derived from their labor. They deserve the right to organize and to have an entity to represent their interests,” said Director of Center for Sports Management, Seton Hall University Charles Grantham.
"Since the 1950s, the NCAA has consciously denied college athletes their fundamental rights as workers under the guise of amateurism. College athletes have labored in a global multi-billion dollar industry to the economic benefit of universities, college coaches and administrators, corporations, and media entities while being deprived of their own value and humanity. The work that U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and U.S. Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Andy Levin, and Lori Trahan have undertaken in proposing the College Athlete Right to Organize Act is essential to leveling the playing field by ensuring that college athletes have a rightful seat at the bargaining table and access to representation who will advocate for them. There is no more critical time for this bill to be passed given the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in favor of college athlete plaintiffs challenging the NCAA’s unreasonably restrictive compensation rules that violated federal antitrust law. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion in Alston v. NCAA, “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate”. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act is designed to address this very affront,” said Ithaca College Professor of Sports Media Ellen Staurowsky, Ed.D.
“The Machinists Union firmly endorses the College Athlete Right to Organize Act. The simple fact is that college athletes, some of the most exploited individuals in the country, deserve the right to form their own unions and engage in collective bargaining. Student athletes generate far more revenue for universities and the NCAA than they receive back in the form of scholarship and housing. It is past time for these institutions to share their profits with the student-athletes who are earning it for them through the collective bargaining process afforded to them through union representation,” said Robert Martinez Jr., International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Earlier this week, Murphy responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling on NCAA v. Alston. Earlier this year, Murphy introduced the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act, which would give college athletes unrestricted and protected rights to make money off their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). Murphy also published an op-ed in Yahoo Sports on the ways in which COVID-19 have exposed the inherent inequities in college sports and lays out the legislative ideas to allow for college athletes to make money off their NIL, as well as provide collective bargaining rights for college athletes.