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SOME MACRO VIEWS ON THE LABOR PROBLEMS FACING PRO SPORTS
Published October 17, 1994
In Boston, Peter Gammons examines the view of Harvard Law Professor Paul Weiler that the four professional sports leagues will be broken up, "the way AT&T was broken up." Weiler notes that in '85, the average one-minute long distance rate in the U.S. was 41 cents, but in '92 the average was 14 cents. Weiler: "That's not to say that ticket prices will drop to a third of what they are today. But the impact will force dramatic changes." Weiler, in a previous article, noted that when the courts broke up the NCAA's football TV monopoly, the number of televised games "doubled in one year, at half the advertising price." Weiler: "It could be that in 1995, Congress will take a serious, wide- ranging look at antitrust as it applies to professional sports, and when they start to look, the landscape may never be the same." Gammons notes, "Obviously, the first hit would be the inflated value of sports franchises. Second, the players." Gammons writes that Congress "has never been willing to address" the fact that taxpayers "get ripped off" by sports monopolies. In taking their case to Washington, baseball owners and players are "going to awaken the majority of people in this country who don't care about government protection of baseball -- or any professional sport" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/16). SEARCH FOR MIDDLE GROUND: In a piece that examines the work stoppages in both baseball and hockey, Murray Chass writes that the biggest problem in both sports is the "absence of creativity" in searching for a solution. Agent Tom Reich, who represents players in both sports, proposes a "mechanism that is adjustable to whether salaries are outpacing revenues or whether revenues are outpacing salaries. It should allow for flip-flops that occur from year to year or every couple of years. What's fair at one moment might not be fair at another unless you have a mechanism that treats that spread" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/17). THE BIG PICTURE: In Toronto, David Israelson sees it all as an "industry-wide shakeout, just like, say, banks or the auto industry went through years before. For most pro sports, that means making the final leap from being popular but disorganized pastimes to becoming streamlined entertainment corporations merely marketing a product that just happens to be a game" (TORONTO STAR, 10/15).