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Mar. 30, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

THUMBS UP: Northwestern ruling

Last Wednesday the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players on scholarship at Northwestern University are athletes first and students second – meaning they can be considered employees of the school.

The university will appeal the ruling, of course, and experts expect years of litigation. But the important thing is that the issue of whether some college athletes can be paid is headed for the courts, where it can be decided once and for all.

For now, the NLRB’s ruling only applies to Northwestern. It has far-reaching implications, though, in the debate about whether collegiate athletes – particularly those who have a hand in generating huge revenue dollars for their schools’ football and basketball programs, the biggest money-makers on campuses – should be compensated in ways other than room and board, books and tuition.

This and related issues are complex and weighty, but the basic premise for those (like us) who favor a serious consideration of compensation (commensurate with how much revenue a particular sport or team produces for a school) for student-athletes is simple: in a bartering system where a person trades labor for compensation, the trade should be fair to both parties. Universities and the NCAA certainly profit in lucrative ways from the current system, which in many cases is clearly imbalanced. Why must the athletes who produce the product not be allowed to share in the riches?

Maybe it doesn’t seem fair that a CEO of an investment bank makes $40 million a year. That CEO can’t possibly work 1,000 times harder than someone who makes $40,000 a year. Likewise, it may not seem fair to compensate a football player at Notre Dame more than a softball player at Wake Forest, both of whom have to balance studies with the particular demands of their respective sports. But if Notre Dame’s football program creates an annual $40 million profit for the school, why not allow that school’s players – whose time demands don’t normally allow them outside work, unlike most non-athlete students – a fair share?

Because of the Northwestern ruling, the debate over that question can begin anew.

THUMBS UP: Static Control decision

The legal battle between Sanford’s Static Control Components and printer giant Lexmark has been going on for years now, but this week a resolution – in favor of Static Control – came closer with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling, on Tuesday, upheld a federal appeals court decision allowing Static Control to proceed with a false advertising complaint against Lexmark, a major producer of printers and printer cartridges.

It was clearly the right call. Static Control manufactures parts that allow for the repair and resale of spent Lexmark toner cartridges. Static Control had claimed Lexmark lied to customers when it said Static’s products infringed on Lexmark’s intellectual property and that using remanufactured Lexmark toner cartridges was illegal.

The ruling stated Lexmark’s conduct damaged the Sanford company’s reputation, and it opened the door for Static Control to move ahead with a false advertising lawsuit against Lexmark. The battle may not be over. Lexmark plans to fight the false advertising claim and stated on its website it believes the company will prevail in the matter. But for now, chalk one up for the “little guy.”