On Tuesday, the National College Players Association filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the NCAA, the Pac-12, and USC and UCLA.
Stretching beyond California and the Pac-12 footprint, the stated goal of the NCPA is to classify all Division I football and basketball players nationwide as employees, granting them all legal protections therein.
The NCPA first rose to public consciousness in 2015, with the push to unionize the Northwestern football team. That push ended with the NLRB unanimously dismissing the team's push, essentially citing that the case was too new and too rare that they didn't want to create precedent.
“The board has never before been asked to assert jurisdiction in a case involving college football players, or college athletes of any kind,” the NLRB said then. “Even if scholarship players were regarded as analogous to players for professional sports teams who are considered employees for purposes of collective bargaining, such bargaining has never involved a bargaining unit consisting of a single team’s players.”
“It’s notable they didn’t rule that players aren’t employees,” NCPA president Ramogi Huma said at the time. “The door is still open.”
Huma and his group are back now, looking down to shatter the frame that has separated church and state since its founding more than a century ago.
In September, the general counsel of the NLRB stated that college athletes should be classified as employees, though the NLRB's jurisdiction applies only to private schools.
Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that any restrictions on "education-related benefits" violated antitrust law. So, while any formal resolution to Tuesday's case is still a ways away, it's fair to say the College Sports Establishment is now facing its most serious challenge ever, in the least friendly environment ever.