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MLB owners, "bowing to pressure" from mediator William Usery, agreed to cancel a Monday meeting in Chicago in which they were expected to declare an impasse in labor negotiations and unilaterally implement their salary cap proposal. The decision by the owners "did not herald a breakthrough, but it frees the union from the threat of implementation while it conducts a 3-day executive board meeting in Atlanta starting Monday and formulates a counterproposal" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 12/1). CNN's Mark Morgan called it "a surprising turn of events because with no counter-proposal forthcoming from the union, the owners were all set to unilaterally implenment their salary cap proposal next week in Chicago" (CNN, 11/30). Braves President Stan Kasten: "I believe from everything that I have heard, that [the players] are going to Atlanta with the purpose in mind of coming out of there with something that does achieve a negotiated settlement." ESPN's Bob Sirkin: "The owners have, at least for the time being, put the ball back in the players hands" ("SportsCenter," 11/30). A SMALL OPENING: MLBPA attorney Lauren Rich: "If there is a window, both sides found a way to keep it open a few days more and that's very important" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). The players and owners meet again in Rye, NY, on December 9. A REASON TO RELENT? In New York, Joel Sherman reports that the implementation of the salary cap "was expected to put the most stress" on the owners unity. Big market clubs such as the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Orioles were expected to argue "behind closed doors against imposition of a salary cap" (N.Y. POST, 12/1). THE PLAYERS' TASK: Sources said that Usery "came down hard on the union for failing to make" a counterproposal, but union officials said they required more information on how the tax works and wanted their constituency to approve any response in Atlanta. MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr: "It's our intention to take everything we've learned and hopefully produce the framework for a settlement" (L.A. TIMES, 12/1). It is expected that more than 100 additional players may show up in Atlanta at the 3-day assemblage of the union's 32-man executive board. "If a majority, or near-majority, express desire for immediate settlement, it could be a Merry Christmas for all" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/1). NO DC HELP: Incoming U.S. House Judiciary Chair Henry Hyde (R-IL) said the government should not get involved in the baseball negotiations (Mult., 12/1). ONTARIO LAWS: Blue Jay officials have decided they will not field replacement players to start the '95 season. Blue Jay President Paul Beeston: "The Blue Jays will not take part in breaking or flouting any law in the province." Lawyers representing MLB owners have researched the issue and come to the "conclusion that they would be unlikely to win a challenge" to the Ontario law. Beeston said the team would not challenge the law, but could do so if MLB ordered the team to do so. Beeston: "We will make it clear that we're doing it at the behest of Major League Baseball" (Tim Harper, TORONTO STAR, 12/1). Despite a similar Quebec law, the Expos "have received the green light to use replacement players" (Mike Zeisberger, TORONTO SUN, 12/1).
Fox Television President/CEO David Evans said the network "is not the bad guy in the World Golf Tour's conflict with the PGA Tour." Evans: "It's easy to say Rupert Murdoch has thrown his money around and he and Greg Norman have tried to take over golf, but that's not the case." Evans disputes PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's claim that the World Tour is "not in the best interests of golf." Evans, who signed the contract for Fox to own the TV rights to the World Tour, said he is not sure how far the World Tour will go to stage its events in '95: "I don't know whether they will try to take on the PGA Tour in the courts or whether that's a good idea. But we at Fox are going to wait and see. That's all we can do. We're not about to engage in pro-active legal activities" (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 12/1). In USA TODAY, Steve Hershey argues in favor of a World Tour concept (USA TODAY, 12/1).
"Throughout the NHL labor dispute, you have repeatedly been told the next meeting is pivotal to the process. Well, this is no false alarm," writes Bob McKenzie in this morning's TORONTO STAR. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and reps from both sides meet today in Chicago. One NHL Governor: "If this set of meetings becomes derailed, we maybe only have two or three days to get things back on track" (TORONTO STAR, 12/1). WHAT WILL THE PLAYERS PRESENT? The "key" to the talks will be the NHLPA's counterproposal, developed through talks between the union's negotiating committee, players and agents. Many are looking for the players to "bend" further on the three key issues -- free agency, arbitration and a rookie cap (CANADIAN PRESS/VANCOUVER SUN, 12/1). "Someone with knowledge of their position said the union's offer to management [today] will be comprehensive, geared toward ending the lockout" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). One management source, on the NHLPA: "It's getting to the point where they are going to have to make a decision" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/1). Another management source: "We consider these meetings to be critical. (The NHLPA has) blown off the last week. If their strategy is to delay and push us up against a deadline, that will be clear immediately" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 12/1). OR IS IT UP TO THE OWNERS? One "prominent" agent said the owners "should recognize the players' attempts to strike a deal" (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 12/1). "If the union's offering is viewed extremely negatively by management, it could erase whatever gains were made [in recent weeks]." One "neutral" source: "If owners walk away from this there will be no season" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 12/1). WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Concessions by the players on free agency, arbitration or the rookie cap could cause the owners to "ease" their luxury tax, or even possibly remove it from consideration (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 12/1). On the rookie cap, the differences are strictly "numerical" -- the union seeks a $1.5M limit, with the league closer to $700,000. On arbitration, the union is concerned about the league's proposed non-binding system -- whereby a team is not bound to an arbitrator's decision. Even with an NHL concession that such "walkaway" players would be granted unrestricted free agency, the union has fears about the potential market for such players. The union may propose limits on the number of "walkaway" arbitrations a team may use. On free agency, the union opposes the league's "franchise player" system, in which a team retains the right to match any offer for its highest-paid players. The union may propose that franchise players be guaranteed a certain salary level (Bob McKenzie, TORONTO STAR, 12/1). SOMEWHERE, PUCKS WILL BE DROPPING: Team Gretzky kicks off its exhibition tour tonight against the IHL Vipers at The Palace at Auburn Hills. Gretzky denies tonight's game and the subsequent European tour are designed to embarrass the league: "We're playing this for charity, for NHL oldtimers, not to stir up controversy. ... We want this tour not to go" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/1).
According to U.S. Soccer Federation Exec Dir/Secretary General Hank Steinbrecher, the U.S. Soccer Foundation plans to be "very conservative" with the $60M surplus from the World Cup, "perhaps disbursing" somewhere between $5-6M a year. That money "presumably would come" from interest and investment of the principal. Steinbrecher: "We could spend all the money quickly and make a terrific impact and get a pat on the back. But I'd rather have my grandchildren get that pat on the back." A "prime candidate" for early funds: "deprived economic areas" (Jerry Langdon, USA TODAY, 12/1).