Free Agency Becomes Critical Sports Issue As NFL Strike Ends; Football, Basketball, and Baseball are Groping Simultaneously with the Problem of Player Mobility. Two Antitrust Suits and an Arbitrator's Ruling Have the Owners Reeling.Legal Times (1987)
Within the past few weeks, three major professional sports have been forced to confront crucial issues involving the continuing viability of free agency and collateral questions pertinent to player mobility. In Major League Baseball, arbitrator Tom Roberts has sustained the grievance of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) alleging that baseball's owners acted in concert to restrict the market available for free-agent baseball
players in 1985. In professional football, the National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) called a strike prompted in part by the owners' intransigence over any significant liberalization of the current system of free agency upon expiration of the 1982 collective bargaining agreement in 1987. After a three-week work stoppage, characterized by the continuation of NFL games with replacements and a few crossovers, the striking players returned to their teams. Immediately, the players filed an antitrust suit alleging that the owners' reserve system (including the college draft) runs afoul of the antitrust laws. This state of autumn unrest is not limited to the NFL, as evidenced by the antitrust class action recently filed by several players, draftees, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) Players' Association, whose labor agreement expired this summer. Again, the gravamen of the basketball complaint, filed two weeks before the NFLPA lawsuit, involves the impediments to unfettered player mobility--the college draft, the right of first refusal (incumbent club's prerogative to match competing offer), and the salary cap (ceiling on team salaries). To the extent the owners press their claim for the continued inclusion of such clauses in the collective bargaining agreement, an impasse is inevitable and a strike possible.
- sports law
Publication DateOctober 26, 1987
Citation InformationMichael J. Cozzillio. "Free Agency Becomes Critical Sports Issue As NFL Strike Ends; Football, Basketball, and Baseball are Groping Simultaneously with the Problem of Player Mobility. Two Antitrust Suits and an Arbitrator's Ruling Have the Owners Reeling." Legal Times Vol. 10 (1987) p. 29
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