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MLB's owners' negotiating committee has written a letter to the players that questions the union's efforts and positions in negotiations. The letter accuses the union of "spending too much time lobbying in Washington and not enough at the bargaining table, of not exhibiting the flexibility in negotiations and of responding slowly and ineffectively to management proposals." The MLBPA branded it "Union Busting 101" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/8). PLAYERS' TOUR: MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "kicked off a third round of regional player meetings" in Chicago on Friday and told attendees to delay signing '95 contracts until there is a "complete review" of the implemented salary cap. Fehr said the purpose of the meeting, attended by an estimated 100 players, "was to bring everybody up to date and respond to questions" on the cap (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/7). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt notes that lower-income and younger players outnumbered the high-priced superstars at the Chicago meeting (MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 1/7). Fehr met with about 150 players in Tampa yesterday. The players heard "impassioned speeches" by veterans such as Andre Dawson and David Cone about the importance of the union's stance. One of the messages the union is trying to spread during the tour is that "gains achieved because of the strike will benefit young players and minor-leaguers, so it is important they not break ranks" (Marc Topkin, ST. PETE TIMES, 1/9). Fehr's tour continues with stops in San Juan, L.A., Phoenix, Dallas and Caracas. AND IN WASHINGTON: Sen. Pat Moynihan (D-NY) said Friday that he will meet with the presidents of the AL and NL as well as Mets Owner Fred Wilpon, at their request, to discuss the strike. An AL spokesperson said that MLB's lobbying branch in DC is setting up meetings between the game's leaders and various members of Congress to discuss the anti-trust exemption (Deborah Orin, N.Y. POST, 1/7). Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, Red Sox CEO John Harrington, Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris, White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and Mets President Fred Wilpon meet Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Wednesday (USA TODAY, 1/9). Up to a dozen owners meet with Senators and Representatives this week to discuss the exemption. Gene Callahan, MLB's DC lobbyist: "Before our effort is over, every member of Congress will be contacted" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/8). Royal Player Rep David Cone is helping organize a trip where at least 3-4 players from each club would meet with leaders from Capitol Hill (Dick Kaegel, K.C. STAR, 1/8). REPLACEMENTS: Harrington said the operations committee plans to make a recommendation within 10 days about a system with which they can open the '95 season with replacements. Harrington said the committee will not offer any "formal recommendation" about reducing ticket prices, but he assumes teams could do so (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/7).
Officials of the PGA Tour were notified on Friday that the Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating possible restraint of trade practices by the Tour since '90, "has decided to seek a complaint against the tour." The case now moves from the staff level to the full commission level. At issue is the legality of the PGA Tour's "conflicting events rule," which prevents a tour member from taking part in a golf event on a date when a tour event is being played, and the legality of the TV release rule, which states that players need approval from the tour to appear on other live or recorded programs. The FTC probe "promises to be a lengthy legal process that could take up to five years to resolve" (Larry Dorman, N.Y. TIMES, 1/9). FROM THE TOUR: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem vigorously denied the FTC's claims and vowed to fight any action in the courts and Congress. In a statement Finchem claimed the PGA Tour's rules have resulted in more, not less competition: "If the staff has its way, these player-enacted and player-supported rules would be eliminated, dismantling the current tournament organization and turning it over to profit-driven promoters." Finchem claimed that over the past 10-15 years: PGA Tour events (including Nike Tour and Senior events) have increased from 44 in '79 to 125 in '94; TV hours have increased from 168 in '83 to nearly 1,000 in '96; prize money increased from $21.9M in '83 to $111M in '93; average purse increased from $245,000 in '80 to $1.4M in '94 (PGA Tour). In an interview with THE DAILY, PGA Tour VP of Communications John Morris saw no room for compromise in an attempt to head off a prolonged legal fight: "The rules that we have have, in fact, increased competition and increased output. They've had exactly the opposite effect to what the FTC staff lawyers have claimed. So, we do not intend to change the rules" (THE DAILY).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow meet today in New York in an attempt to save the season as the NHL-imposed deadline of noon Tuesday looms. The weekend was highlighted by a contentious NHL Board of Governors meeting on Saturday, at which the Governors voted 19-7 to reject the players' latest proposal. But the Board subsequently voted 20-6 to offer a counterproposal that, for the first time, did not include a luxury tax. The players rejected that offer at 4:30pm EST on Sunday by a unanimous 26-0 vote leaving both sides little time to reach a deal: THE DISPUTE: The primary areas of disagreement are: AGE OF UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENCY -- 32 or 30; DRAFT AGE -- 18 or 20; RULES FOR REOPENING -- the owners want the one-way right to revisit the CBA (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 1/9). FROM THE COMMISH: Bettman was interviewed live on ESPN on Sunday morning. Bettman to ESPN's Al Morganti: "The fact that we backed off the tax or the cap should not be construed as a sign that it was a bargaining ploy. To the contrary, there were a lot of owners who didn't like the proposal that we made, that didn't like the fact that our proposal doesn't have a tax or a cap. This was a proposal that I urged and that many of the owners reluctantly supported solely so that we could play hockey." Asked by ESPN's Robin Roberts how he would feel about being the first commissioner to cancel an entire season: "The thing that I feel comfortable with in this process is that I went to the owners and urged them to make a proposal that would address the players' key bargaining goals. ... A lot of owners were against it -- but did it at my urging so that we could play hockey" (ESPN, 1/8). Bettman to the TORONTO STAR: "The fact is, (Goodenow) has won big" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 1/9). Bettman to the L.A. TIMES: "If it wasn't good enough for the players, it just means there is no deal to be made and those (owners) who would prefer to have a salary cap or a tax, even at the cost of a season, will probably have their way" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 1/9). FROM THE NHLPA: Goodenow: "There really isn't a lot to be done. There could be some adjustments, some modifications, some things could go up some things could go down" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/8). OTHER COMMENTARY: In New York, Mark Everson writes, "The obvious trade would be a 20-year-old draft for a 30-year old free agency, or splitting the difference between 32 and 30" (N.Y. POST, 1/9). Larry Brooks credits Bettman with resisting the pressure from hard-liners to cancel the season: "There was Bettman, portrayed far and wide as the villain, who coaxed the board into another offer to give the players some more time, which Goodenow, for once, decided to take" (N.Y. POST, 1/9). In Toronto, Al Strachan writes, "It is the owners who paid the least for their franchises and/or whose teams are the worst draws in the league who are determining the course of action" (TORONTO SUN, 1/9). Gare Joyce writes, "Under the owners' proposal, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/9). Bob McKenzie writes, "As the hogs on both sides snort, grunt and groan about the terrible hardships they're being forced to endure, they seem oblivious to the fact they're all about to be butchered" (TORONTO STAR, 1/9). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes, "The owners said they wouldn't capitulate, but they have, and now the onus is on the players just to do a little better" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/9). WILL THERE BE BLOOD ON THE TRACKS? ESPN's Al Morganti said if there is no season both Bettman and Goodenow are "going to be a mess." There could "easily be a players' revolt" against Goodenow, and, as for the owners, "they are going to look at somebody and say 'Hey, what happened to our league?'" ("Sunday SportsDay" 1/8). In New York, George Vescey predicts problems for Bettman if the season is canceled: "I know who [the owners] will blame. It won't be themselves" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/8).