Delay of Game! Locked Out Again

You’ve got your season tickets.  You’re ready for tip-off, cued for a coin toss, and primed for a puck drop.  But something is missing.

If it feels like every time you take your eyes off the game, everyone from Washington Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin to NFL referee Ed Hochuli is sidelined, you’re right.  Since the beginning of 2011, the NHL, NBA, and NFL have each experienced at least one labor lockout, and the NFL is on-track to notch a hat trick after imposing their second lockout earlier this year.

Timeout!  Everyone keeps saying lockout.  What is it and why now?

A lockout is a leveraging tactic used by employers during a labor dispute.  In order to try and force employees to make concessions, employers prevent them from working by locking them out.

Players from each league are unionized.  Take NFL players, for example.  They are members of the NFLPA, which represents their interests in bargaining and advocates on their behalf in the event that labor issues arise.  The most recent lockouts have been the result of disagreement over the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which contains the terms of the league’s relationship with their respective players.

Each CBA is negotiated between the union and league for a finite period to allow both sides to revisit (and hopefully revise) the agreement to reflect market trends, health and safety concerns, and labor developments.  This has been the sticking point leading to the NFL, NBA, and NHL lockouts.

The NFL, NBA, and NHL had collective bargaining agreements with their respective unions that conveniently all expired within a year and a half of each other.  Both the NFL and NBA CBAs with the players expired in 2011.  The NFL’s CBA with the Referees Association expired earlier this year, and the NHL CBA expired last month.  After cancelling a portion of the 2011-2012 season, the NBA achieved labor peace with a ten-year deal that could last as long as 2022.  The NFL inked a new CBA with the NFLPA lasting through the 2020 season, and they buried the hatchet with the Referees Association in September after a highly publicized and controversial lockout.

We’re still talking about this – who is locked out now?

Luckily, we’re down to a single league!  The NHL is the final holdout that has yet to make nice with the players.

After the NHL CBA expired in September of this year, the league swiftly locked out players – even canceling the first two weeks of games that were set to start on October 11th.  The current labor dispute revolves around money – each side wants a bigger share of the revenue.  Before the CBA expired, players were receiving 57%.  Now the NHL wants to move that number closer to 50%, but the NHLPA is digging in for a fight.

In the weeks following the lockout, both sides have met to make their case, but so far neither side seems willing to budge.  At this rate, you may not want to hold your breath for a puck drop.  But thanks to a few newly inked CBAs, there’s no shortage of MLB playoffs and NBA pre-season to watch!

The bright spot

It’s not all bad!  For something positive to come out of the most recent labor lockouts, check out:  When the locked-out refs couldn’t take the field at the start of the 2012 NFL pre-season, Shannon Eastin stood-in and made history as the first female NFL ref!

Have questions or thoughts about the recent labor lockouts?  Ask and comment below. Follow LeagueAl on Twitter for updates as the NHL labor dispute develops or shoot an email to


Posted on October 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Written by

Alexandra Goldstein

Alexandra received her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she was the President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Prior to graduating law school, Alexandra worked for two athlete management agencies, as well as the NFL Players Association and NCAA. Her areas of interest are licensing and right of publicity law. With her passion for collegiate and professional sports, Alexandra seeks to make Legal Timeout an accessible source of information about current sports law issues and ongoing topics in the field. A native of San Francisco, Alexandra received her B.A. in mass communication from UC Berkeley and roots for Cal and the 49ers every Saturday and Sunday. Follow her on twitter @LeagueAl.
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