Status Of Professional Athletes Under Us Labour Laws – A Comparative Analysis

Khurana and Khurana


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Scientific aspect and marketing of sports in India are cumulative; innumerable issues come under the labor law head.
India Employment and HR
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Scientific aspect and marketing of sports in India are cumulative; innumerable issues come under the labor law head. However, these obstacles come due to the fact that the sport is managed by several organizations (with their own interests), and all of them administrate individual athletes. The example interests are clubs who want to junk the players who aren't working and sporting bodies trying to maintain fairness, the players individual interests including access to better compensation.

The female athletes in sports world being subjected to the basic inequality operates around the remuneration package they receive compared to their male counterparts. This pay gap, dreaded in most aspects of life including sports, keeps us highly skeptical. The painful fact remains that despite equal level of effort and contribution, women are quite unjustly paid remarkably lesser than men. The oversexualization of women athletes is a worldwide issue and India where is no exception, as it is not rare for female athletes to have their paychecks cut short by men in almost any sport.

The article focuses on the modern labor laws and the sportswomen related challenges, assessing if sportspersons in India could be treated as employees and whether they come under the purview of an Equal Remuneration Act (1976) or Code on Wages (2019). The study also examines numerous US and Indian court judgments and case studies, threw them into the limelight of the termination of labor laws for sportsperson and their pay scale in other countries as well.


First, let us consider the situation of athlete in India in comparison with that in the United States as the latter has much influence on sports laws and thatched contracts both in India and the world as whole. The U.S. labor market regulatory nature in professional sports is complicated and deeply entrenched, which leads to high level economic considerations. The history of the american sports business was previously not competitive or even marketable. Finally, in the United States, nearly all professional athletes are signed players of their teams and their employment contracts explain the expectations and conditions. These contracts are commonly to include the compensation package that comprises the basic salary, achievement and bonus allotments. In addition, such provisions could provide housing, transportation, and expense related to employment expenses. Moreover, some people in professional sports in the U.S. happens to belong to labor unions which represents their dissatisfaction to the management in teams and leagues.

While the U.S. sports business functions with a detailed legal framework in which to place team contracts, operations, and league regulations, international sport is subject to very different realities. The legal system controls to both athletes rights and also providing a fair compensation. Labor stewardship has a favorable impact on the position of an athlete who may be aided in effecting substantial renegotiation of their terms and conditions of employment. Effectively, the American sports system delineates the industry best practices on how professional sports leagues can be structured and disciplined in a manner that would be beneficial both for the athletes and their teams. Grasping the working trends and legal factors of sports culture in U.S. can help boost Indian sports athletes improvement in area of law and conditions at work.1 These unions work to ensure that athletes receive fair compensation and are treated fairly by their employers. Until recently, US professional teams have made long-term exclusive contracts with players and they alone had the legal right to transfer performance rights of players to other teams. Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) are the core legal structure of professional sports.2 The players in all of the major professional sports leagues such as NFL, MLB, NBA, etc are represented by their unions. Pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act, these unions are "the exclusive representatives of all the employees in [the bargaining] unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment."3

Professional athletes are not considered typical workers in and of themselves since their job environments are regulated by contract laws, even if their relationships with their teams are governed by contracts and collective bargaining agreements. However, the United Nations Supreme Court in its landmark judgement in Brown v. Pro Football, Inc.4 has disregarded the idea that professional sportsmen should receive preferential status from the employment regulations. This implies that they shouldn't face any kind of discrimination under labour rules, even if they aren't thought of as typical workers. The union's arguments in this case focused on the treatment of professional athletes, arguing that regardless of the laws governing employees generally, professional athletes should be treated differently due to the particular circumstances of their employment. The court was deliberating over the extent of non-statutory exemptions from anti-trust laws.5 The Court here stated that "We can understand how professional sports may be special in terms of, say, interest, excitement, or concern. But we do not understand how they are special in respect to labor law's antitrust exemption .... Ultimately, we cannot find a satisfactory basis for distinguishing football players from other organized workers."6

This judgement has become a landmark authority in the United States for understanding the scope of how labour laws deals with the equality for professional athletes even though they are governed by the contracts and are not the traditional employees of their teams. It provides for a strong argument for applying the same statutory presumption to labor issues that arise in the context of professional sports.


1 Robert D. Manred, Jr., LABOR LAW AND THE SPORTS INDUSTRY,, (Last visited May 6, 2023 )

2 Collective Bargaining Agreements in Sports Leagues, JUSTIA, (last visited May 5, 2023)

3 Labor Relations and the Sports Industry: Sports Unions + Leagues, RUTGERS U. LIBRS., (last visited May 6, 2023)

4 518 U.S. 231 (1996).

5 Id at 249.

6 Id at 248-50.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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