Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Unionizes

By: Connor Dullinger



As March approaches so does an unprecedented decision in college sports, a decision that may change the meaning of what it means to be a “student-athlete”.


Dartmouth College’s men’s basketball team has organized an election to take place on March 5th. This election will determine whether or not the team will unionize. This decision follows a conclusion reached by the Boston regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that the Dartmouth players were employees of the school. This allowed the 15 members of the basketball team to vote on whether they will unionize or not. 


If a majority of the Dartmouth players vote to unionize then they will be the first unionized team in the history of all of collegiate athletics. The NLRB spokesperson has said that the school has until February 20th to appeal the decision made by the board and the school has informed the NLRB that they plan to appeal. 


Despite the schools intention to fight this battle with their students, the athletes are proud of what they are doing and are hoping to push a new message.


“It’s a great privilege to be able to do it,” junior forward Cade Haskins said. “We hope it encourages other athletes across the country to take action.”


The origins of the union started in September when the entire basketball team announced their wishes to join SEIU Local 560 which is a union that already represents several employees at the school.


Dartmouth has cited that the athletes are students first and that by abiding by the rules of the Ivy League they do not give athletic scholarships to their student-athletes. The school also added that their basketball program does not generate any revenue. 


“Our guiding principle is that students are scholars first and athletes second,” Dartmouth associate vice president for communications Diana Lawrence wrote in a statement.


Despite pleas from the school the NLRB ruled that the 15 players of the team can pursue a union because they provide services that support the school and the school has a large amount of power over the conditions and structure of the work.


While the decision to unionize could prove monumental for Dartmouth it could also be critical for the NCAA and what it means to be an athlete on the collegiate level. By classifying college athletes as employees there would be seismic changes to the competitiveness and foundation of collegiate sports.


These vast changes come at the hands of the things college athletes would be entitled to if they were classified as athletes. This includes compensation for unemployment, minimum wage, and other benefits stemming from labor laws.


This would allow schools with large athletic budgets, like Ohio State University and the University of Texas, to hand-pick whatever recruits they want while smaller schools or schools with lower budgets would have less of a selection. Essentially, the ultimate decision of this case could further unbalance a playing field that to some already feels uneven due to the prevalence of NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals.


If the Dartmouth men’s basketball team does decide to unionize it would also introduce various challenges.


“I think as coaches, our biggest questions are if they are (employees), are there going to be multi-year contracts, and is there going to be a salary cap,” University of Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider said. “I think that would be something that is really, really important if we want to have any parity at all.”


NCAA athletes and programs will have to wait till the beginning of March to see how this case may change the trajectory of college sports. 


Nevertheless, Dartmouth men’s basketball is 5-15 and 1-6 in the Ivy League.

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