Five worst labor disputes in sports

The NFL isn't known for striking. In fact, it hasn’t had a major interruption in play since 1987, which may be the reason for its continued popularity, says New York University professor of sports management Robert Boland. As the NFL faces its first labor dispute in decades, here is a look back at the five worst shutdowns in US sports history.

2. 1998 NBA lockout (July 1, 1998 to Jan. 20, 1999)

Ezio Petersen/Newscom/File
Patrick Ewing, then president of the NBA union, heads to the NBA Players Association meeting on Jan. 6, 1999, to discuss the last-minute settlement reached with team owners to end the 190-day lockout.

Player salaries had been increasing for years, and this had team owners worried. In 1977, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar commanded the highest salary with $675,000 annually. A decade later, Patrick Ewing towered over his colleagues with a $2.7 million contract. By 1997, Michael Jordan was taking home $30 million per year.

The NBA sought salary caps to curb this, and shut down play when the athletes refused.

Bolden says this was the first time a lockout was used as a significant strategy for pressuring players to meet management's demands. As he points out, "the average NBA player both makes and spends a lot of money. By denying them work, owners forced them to cave into their demands."

“You can use that against them for leverage,” he says.

Players eventually agreed to “max” salaries, which were dictated as a percentage of each team’s annual revenue.

4 of 5
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.