In 1968, the National Football League Players Association was recognized for the first time in writing by the owners of the National Football League. This happened after NFLPA players voted in favor of a strike to push owners to raise minimum wages, pensions and other benefits for all players.  Subsequently, the owners of the NFL team blocked the striking players.  After an 11-day work stoppage, the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was concluded between the NFL and the NFLPA.   The agreement set a minimum wage of $US 9,000 per year for rookie players and $10,000 per year for experienced players. In addition, $1.5 million in league revenue was allocated to player pensions.  The NBA-NBPA dispute in 2011 was similar when NBA owners blocked players and players, dissolved their union and challenged the owners` lockout (Anthony v. NBA, No. 11-5525 (N.D.
Cal). However, NBA owners and players settled the dispute and entered into a new collective bargaining agreement before one of the most important legal issues was resolved. The authorization to use the „offensive lockout” marked the next and most important step in the development and expansion of the lockout. In American Ship Building Co. v. NLRB, the Supreme Court held that employers can block employees in order to gain more influence at the bargaining table. The Court held that „the law contains nothing that gives workers the right to insist on their contractual claims, without prejudice to the type of economic disadvantage that often participates in collective disputes” (313). The Court found that the admission of offensive, but non-defensive, blows caused an unfair and unnecessary asymmetry in labour negotiations and concluded that „the use of a lockout exclusively in support of a legitimate bargaining position by the employer is in no way inconsistent with the right to collective strike or with the right to strike” (310). The history of collective bargaining in professional sport is littered with long labour disputes.
In many ways, collective bargaining in professional sport is a reflection of collective bargaining in traditional non-sporting sectors – management and labour use their economic weapons, including strikes and lockouts, to win at the bargaining table. However, professional sports leagues and player associations have unique attributes that involve complex challenges and legal issues in the context of collective bargaining. Like virtually every aspect of sport in our modern culture, labour disputes and possible work stoppages in professional sports leagues take place in the heat of public spotlights. However, the real singularity and complexity of sports negotiations are based on the conflict between labour law and antitrust rules, which is at the heart of many collective bargaining between players and owners. Recently, this fight took place in the labor negotiations of the National Football League (NFL), which resulted in negotiations between Brady against the National Football League and the National Basketball Association (NBA), which led to Anthony v. NBA. Most of the questions raised in these cases regarding the conflict between labour law and the rules on cartels and abuse of dominance remain unanswered. However, it is largely inevitable that this conflict will resume and that the resolution of these issues can help shape the future of collective bargaining in professional sport. This chapter will provide a brief context of the fundamental principles of labour law and the unique aspects of professional sports leagues and their athletes, will provide a summary of the history of collective bargaining in the „Big Four” U.S.
sports leagues (the National Football League (p. 210), the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. , and analyzes recent labour disputes and changes in the law in this area.