Northwestern University today asked the full National Labor Relations Board to overturn the ruling by the board’s Chicago regional director that NU football players are employees and may be represented by a union.

Calling the decision by the regional director unprecedented, Northwestern’s brief says the director overlooked or ignored key evidence that its student-athletes are primarily students, not employees.

“Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first,” the brief states. “Based on the testimony of a single player, the regional director described Northwestern’s football program in a way that is unrecognizable from the evidence actually presented at the hearing,” the brief argues.

The school claims the regional director improperly refused to apply the legal precedent established in a 2004 NLRB decision that held that graduate assistants at Brown University were primarily students, not employees.

The school also argues that it’s 97-percent graduation rate for football players demonstrates the emphasis Northwestern places on the academic success of its student-athletes.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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