A Look Back at Professional Sports Labor Disputes

We’ve already passed the 100 day marker in the NFL lockout. At this point, things aren’t exactly looking too good. The longer this dispute drags on the shorter the upcoming NFL season will be. In fact, there’s already talk that the 2011-2012 season could get cut in half to eight games. As much as this sucks, there’s been far worse lockouts and strikes in sport’s history. In some cases an entire sport’s season has been canceled. Other times a strike or lockout causes just a hiccup. Unfortunately, other professional sports leagues may find themselves in the same situation that the NFL is currently in. The NBA could face a lockout for next season (the collective bargain agreement expires on June 30) and the NHL may be forced to skip the 2012-2013 season. One thing is for certain, however, lockouts and strikes have occurred in the past and will continue to in the sports world. Here’s a look back at professional sports labor disputes.

2004 – 05 NHL Lockout

Just like the 1994 baseball strike, this lockout crippled hockey for several years. The issue was money, of course after the CBA expired. The NHL claimed it was losing money and wanted a salary cap. The lockout caused the entire season to be canceled, including the Stanley Cup finals, which hadn’t happened since 1919.

1998 – 99 NBA Lockout

The third basketball lockout was the league’s worst. It dragged from July 1, 1998 to January 20, 1999, resulting in the season to be shorted to 50 games. The main issue was player’s salaries. The lockout concluded literally at the final hour. If the agreement that was reached on January 6 wasn’t met the entire season could have been lost.

1996 NBA Lockout

This lockout is brief that it could easily be overlooked. On July 1, a lockout was imposed after disagreeing on television revenue. A couple of hours later both sides reach an agreement and the lockout is lifted.

1995 NBA Lockout

Basketball witnessed it’s first lockout from July 1 – September 12. Both sides reached an agreement over luxury tax during the off-season, so no games were lost.

1994 – 95 NHL Lockout

The implementation of a salary cap caused this hockey lockout from October 1, 1994 – January 11, 1995. Some 468 games were missed, including the All-Star Game, and the season was shortened to 48 games before an agreement was reached.

1994 -95 MLB strike

This was the strike that hurt baseball for years. Both sides failed to reach agreements on salary caps and revenue sharing. This resulted in a strike from August 12, 1994 to March 31, 1995. This meant that not only the  remainder of the regular season was canceled, but, also the postseason. 1994 would go on to be the first year that the World Series wasn’t played since 1904 with some 938 games missed.

1992 NHL Strike

The first strike in the NHL’s history occurred from April 1 – April 10 and had little to no effect on the remainder of the season. However, the players earned an increase in their playoff bonuses, increased control over the licensing of their likenesses and changes to the free agency system, which as been called a “major moment” for hockey players.

1990 MLB Lockout

The players and owners squabble over salary arbitration and salary cap from Feburary 15 – March 18. Owners agree to contribute $55 million to pension fund and again raise minimum salary for players. The worst thing that happened was that camps started late.

1987 NFL Strike

Only one week of football was canceled during this month long strike. Since the owners anticipated a strike they had replacement players on standby. Within three weeks the NFLPA cracked and agreed to go back on the field on October 15 without a collective bargaining agreement. Ultimately, the players prevailed in their antitrust case. What’s interesting is that the Redskins won the Super Bowl this season, as they also did in 1982.

1985 MLB Strike

Compared to other labor disputes this was pretty much nothing. The two day strike in August resulted in a higher minimum salary for players and owners agreeing to contribute $33 million to the pension fund during the next three years.

1982 NFL Strike

The first NFL strike took place from September 12 to November 16. During that stretch, no NFL games were played. The cause of the strike was the NFLPA wanting to raise the percentage of gross revenues to 55%. Thankfully, some of the season was savaged with nine games and a “Super Bowl tournament”.

1981 MLB Strike

In 1980, both sides agreed to have the free-agency issue re-opened in 1981. The result? A player’s strike from June 12 – July 31 with 712 games missed. Players and owners agree that clubs should not be compensated for the loss of free agents and that teams can retain players for six years.

1980 MLB Strike

Baseball players go on strike yet again, this time over free-agent compensation. The eight day strike from April 1 -8 causes some spring training games to be canceled but the regular season begins on time.

1976 MLB Lockout

The three CBA agreed on in 1973 expires resulting in another baseball lockout. The main causes were free agency and re-entry in the draft. Again, thankfully, the lockout is handled before the start of the new season so no games were affected.

1973 MLB Lockout

A year later from the first MLB strike a salary arbitration caused a lockout in baseball. Thankfully, the issues are addressed and fixed in Feburary, so no games were missed.

1972 MLB Stike

The first of eight work stoppages in baseball history. The players went on strike from April 1 to 12 over pensions and binding arbitration. The strike ends when players union and owners agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. Fortunately, the strike only lasted 14 days with 86 games missed.

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