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Sen. Murphy reintroduces college athlete unionization bill


A day after the NCAA unveiled a proposal to allow some schools to directly compensate their athletes, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy reintroduced a bill that would allow college athletes to unionize.

The College Athlete Right to Organize Act (CARO) legislation introduced Wednesday by Murphy and co-sponsor Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to classify college athletes as employees. This designation would give college athletes the same rights as any employee in the United States to join together to improve their working conditions and wages, including the freedom to organize at their individual colleges or across colleges, and by sport or across sports.

In Murphy's proposal, the NLRA would update the definition of public colleges and private educational institutions as employers "within the context of intercollegiate sports, allowing athletes to collectively bargain at any college, regardless of state laws that restrict their basic labor rights or potential state laws that define athletes as nonemployees."

"All the breathless attention on this weekend's College Football Playoff selection is a reminder that college sports are anything but amateur. There is no college sports industry and its $16 billion in annual revenues without the athletes' labor," Murphy said Wednesday in a press release.

"It's past time they get a seat at the negotiating table. Instead of fighting athletes' rights in courts and spending millions on lobbying Congress, the NCAA and its members should start negotiating directly with players on revenue-sharing, health and safety protections, and more. This legislation would make it easier for the athletes to realize their power, form unions, and start to collectively bargain."

NCAA President Charlie Baker wrote in a letter to member schools Tuesday that top NCAA schools should be allowed to operate under different rules. His proposed framework would create a new subdivision in which athletes would avoid being categorized as employees and would be allowed to license their NIL rights directly to their schools.

"It kick-starts a long-overdue conversation among the membership that focuses on the differences that exist between schools, conferences and divisions and how to create more permissive and flexible rules across the NCAA that put student-athletes first," Baker wrote. "Colleges and universities need to be more flexible, and the NCAA needs to be more flexible, too."

This is not the first time Murphy, a vocal UConn fan, has attempted to address this issue. He and Massachusetts Rep. Lori Trahan have twice proposed legislation focused on name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities for student-athletes -- the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act -- in February of 2021 and again in July of this year.

Sanders -- the Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee -- and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren co-sponsored Murphy's bill.

Companion legislation is being introduced in Congress by U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York.

--Field Level Media

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Reportng - Field Level Media

Field Level Media features breaking news & coverage of 7,000+ annual events from a network of more than 200 professional journalists across North America.

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