April 8, 2020

Will the players get paid? How pro sports contracts deal with disasters like pandemics

WHAT: Professional baseball and basketball players could lose large portions of their salaries if 2020 games are eventually canceled, according to reports by ESPN and the Associated Press, citing the terms of collective bargaining agreements between the leagues and players unions.

WHO: James B. Dworkin, a professor in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, is an expert and author focusing on professional sports unions and collective bargaining, and an arbitrator in a variety of labor-management disputes. Dworkin says collective bargaining agreements often contain special clauses, called “force majeure,” that cover how operations continue when catastrophes like fires, floods or pandemics occur.

QUOTE: “Force majeure is in a lot of contracts in case of natural disasters like a pandemic. For every game they miss, they could lose a certain amount of money. Collective bargaining contracts in professional sports can be as long as a thousand pages. Every clause in the contract, including force majeure, is agreed to by both parties. When these kinds of clauses are agreed to, both parties hope they will never have to be enacted. The big question is will players be paid if games are not played due to this current coronavirus pandemic.”

dworkin-james James Dworkin. (Courtesy photo) Download image

MORE INFORMATION: Dworkin is author of the book “Owners Versus Players: Baseball and Collective Bargaining.”

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Writer: Joseph Paul, paul102@purdue.edu (working remotely but will provide immediate response)

Source: James Dworkin, jdworkin@purdue.edu (available for phone and Zoom interviews)

Note to Journalists: An NBA stock image and a photograph of the professor is available to journalists via Google Drive.

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