Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



National Basketball Association players have a long history of fighting against racial injustice. In August 2020, players participated in the most attention-grabbing endeavor to date: a league-wide strike against racial discrimination in the United States. Refusing to play games entails financial risk for players because of a no-strike clause in the collective bargaining agreement between the National Basketball Players Association and National Basketball Association team governors. Team governors can fine, bench, or fire players for refusing to play. However, it may be infeasible to discipline players for attempting to fight for racial equality—-players are extremely important to the well-being of the league, and team governors could face public backlash given society’s overwhelming support of the players’ efforts. The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency overseeing labor disputes, has yet to determine the legality of a professional athlete political strike. Legal scholars are divided as to whether union employees, including National Basketball Association players, can successfully strike against racial injustice.

Waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to make a decision can be a lengthy and costly process. Accordingly, this Note proposes that team governors and the National Basketball Players Association proactively agree to include provisions regarding racial equality in their collective bargaining agreement. These provisions should address racial discrimination in the United States and strike a balance between each party’s interests. In reaching a contractual agreement, both parties can collaborate in the fight for racial equality and avoid potential conflict or work stoppage altogether.