6. 1982 NFL Strike
Duration: Sept. 21 – Nov. 16, 1982 (57 days)
Effect on Season: The season was shortened from 16 games to nine for each team. In addition, the playoff format was changed to include 16 teams, eight from each conference ranked without factoring in division winners. A total of 98 games were canceled.
The strike began two weeks into the regular season with the NFL Players Association unhappy with the distribution of revenue. It was clear the players were going to get more money – the owners had already been vocal that they deserved more. The league had just signed a new five-year, $2.1-billion television contract and the NFL players’ salaries were much less than that of the other major sports that had implemented unrestricted free agency. But the union didn’t want free agency and instead wanted a wage scale with incentives and performance bonuses.
The NFLPA tried to gain leverage and income by staging two exhibition games. But they drew minimal attendance and most stars didn’t participate, perhaps because they didn’t have health insurance coverage, which was suspended by the league. A deal was eventually reached in mid-November and play resumed just five days later.
Result: A new five-year agreement was put in place. The new deal gave severance packages to players upon retirement, a modest increase in salaries and postseason pay, and immediate bonuses of $10,000-$60,000 depending on years of service in the league.
Fallout: By not pushing for unrestricted free agency, NFL salaries continued to lag behind those of the other major sports leagues, setting up the 1987 strike.