GrayRobinson Higher Education E-lert: Legislation Filed in Congress Aims to Classify College Athletes as "Employees"

Authored by W. Scott Cole and Elizabeth Blair Hancock | June 4, 2021

Last week, the “College Athlete Right to Organize Act” (CARO) was introduced in the Senate by Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Bernie Sanders (D-Vt) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Andy Levin (D-Mich), and Lori Trahan (D-Mass). CARO would classify a college athlete as an employee if he or she receives a grant-in-aid or other forms of compensation. This would allow college athletes to collectively bargain with their "employer," amending the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which previously blocked the Northwestern University football players from unionizing in 2015. The legislation would also apply to state universities that have previously been exempt.
 
CARO is expected to face serious hurdles to passage but, despite the anticipated uphill battle, one thing remains clear: conversations around student-athletes and use of their names, images, and likenesses continue to intensify. If CARO does pass, it could fundamentally change the concept of amateurism that is the cornerstone of intercollegiate athletics.