The History of Sports Lockouts [Infographic]

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Professional sports are big business.

No matter which way you slice it, the sports we grow up playing and learn to cherish for their purity and camaraderie inevitably become shackled by the chains of economic bottom-lines and ‘employee vs. employer’ contrition.

When elite athletes become global superstars and help grow the business (sport) that they represent, is it not just that they earn more in relation to the increased revenue they help generate? After all, they are both the product and the employee. If they help earn more for the business they work for, shouldn’t they get a larger slice of the pie?

It isn’t quite that simple and unfortunately for players and loyalists, owners do not always see it this way.

Over the past 4 decades professional sports have endured close to 20 separate incidences of labor disputes between the players’ unions and the leagues respective owners. Player unions, which were established during the 1950’s and 60’s, gave athletes a collective voice to express their needs and concerns with the league and its owners. While this was a necessary step toward leveling the financial imbalance of power, the playing field was, and forever will remain, tilted in the owners favor.

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Once player unions and league owners established open lines of communication, the next step in the process was to negotiate collective bargaining agreements (CBA). Each league and its respective players union have gone through numerous CBA’s with varying lengths and results. History has shown that lockouts or player strikes most often occur at the tail end of an expiring CBA. The lengthier lockouts in sports history derived from shortsighted resolutions and “band-aid” fixes to problems that didn’t truly resolve the issues sufficiently. While this often appeased fans in the short term (bringing the product back to stadiums) it perilously left the door wide open for even larger holdouts when the short term fix (CBA) next expires.

This “History of Sports Lockouts” infographic takes a look at the past 40 years of North American professional sports labor disputes and details how and why each one occurred. With two CBA’s expiring this summer and two more with the next 12 months, there will be a lot of attention on the sports world. Hopefully lessons will be learned from the past and minimal games will be lost.