Faculty Blog: When Labor and Sports Collide

Mellon Arena, March 10, 2009

Mellon Arena, March 10, 2009 (Photo credit: AxsDeny; Courtesy of Creative Commons)

by Professor Roger Abrams
Richardson Professor of Law

As November progresses and hockey fans continue to lament the lack of a season, it’s hard not to think about labor strife in the National Hockey League. This is the third time in the short reign of Commissioner Gary Bettman that the fastest game on ice has been placed on hiatus by the owners. This dispute, like previous ones, is over a significant amount of money. The owners want a larger share of the multi-billion dollar pie baked by the athletes. However, no one can say that hockey players are not well paid. They are entertainers and, as such, are more than adequately compensated.

I teach Sports Law to upper level students at NUSL, and the course focuses on the relationships among players, unions, agents, leagues and owners. The principles of labor law and antitrust law thread throughout our class discussions. While many students take the course because we read cases involving baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and numerous other pastimes, the legal issues we address are quite challenging.

Over the past 15 years, I have been writing books and articles about the law and business of sports, learning, in the process, about the economics of the games we enjoy so much.  Much of my work focuses on social history, placing important legal issues into context. Sports mirror society in many ways. In class, we use a casebook I was invited to co-author, and I have been integrating social and business perspectives into the course materials. Students write a research paper for the course, and the best papers are often published in journals around the country.

I think you will find Northeastern University School of Law a place where you can learn the skills of lawyering in a supportive and diverse environment. From the first days of orientation until your graduation, you will be part of a community of bright men and women that is committed to excellence in legal education. You will be part of a team of winners. I hope you will consider joining us.

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