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As expected, the NLRB announced that it plans to issue a complaint against the owners on unfair labor practices charges filed by the MLBPA. While NLRB General Counsel Fred Feinstein would not say whether he would seek an injunction, chief management attorney Chuck O'Connor left a meeting with Feinstein believing he would do so. Feinstein is expected to forward his request for an injunction to the five-member board by the end of this week, "and the board is expected to act -- favorably -- by the end of next week." That would mean a March 27 court date (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/15). UNION CLAIMS VICTORY: MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr: "We got enough to make us real happy. ... We have another indication from the general counsel's office that (the owners have) failed to bargain in good faith. Sooner or later, people are going to realize the reason (negotiations are) not moving forward is because they're not bargaining in good faith" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/15). In L.A., Ross Newhan writes that, despite the fact that arguments before an administrative law judge on the likely injunction do not seem likely before May 22, the union "expressed delight" with the announcement. Privately, the union noted "that the owners face enormous legal and financial risks, with or without a lockout" (L.A. TIMES, 3/15). OWNERS CLAIM VICTORY: MLB's release on the complaint focused on the NLRB's recognition of the clubs' right to bargain contracts with the players through their Players Relations Committee. MLB referred to that as the "central element" of the players' complaint (MLB). The owners "seem certain to wage a possibly prolonged fight with the NLRB in court and to respond to any attempt by the players to return to work under terms of the old agreement with a lockout" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 3/15). Red Sox CEO John Harrington said it is possible the owners would not lock out the players, but only if the players signed a no- strike pledge for the coming season (SCRIPPS HOWARD, 3/15). Mark Maske reports there would be an "internal debate" among owners on whether a lockout vote would require 3/4 or a majority (WASHINGTON POST, 3/15). One owner said the union "didn't come close" to getting all it wanted: "This is not the way out for Don" (TORONTO STAR, 3/15). Rangers President Tom Schieffer: "I don't think it's terribly earth-shattering or terribly dramatic; it just begins the litigation" (Ron Hutcheson, FT. WORTH STAR- TELEGRAM, 3/15). Braves President Stan Kasten: "We're quite certain we're right on the law" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/15). White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf called the complaint "merely the beginning of a legal process, not the completion of one" (Stephen Franklin, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/15). Giants Owner Peter Magowan: "The NLRB's concern can be addressed in a much more expedient fashion through negotiation rather than litigation" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/15). SO, WHERE ARE WE? NEWSDAY's Mike Lupica: "This is it, this is the apocalypse now. They [the owners] didn't cancel the World Series and do everything they've done to run and hide now because of the NLRB. I wish I could tell you I see an end in sight, but I can't" ("GMA," ABC, 3/15).
Phillies President Bill Giles said he would invite his players to cross the line if the strike lasted much longer, but only with the approval of MLB's Executive Council and only if another team "joined in his act of rebellion." Giles: "I wouldn't want to do this alone." Giles added that he thought at least half of his team would have to cross for his plan to work. He claimed to know through "indirect" conversations that his players "want this thing over with. And if any team crosses the line first, I think our guys might be the ones." In Orlando, Phillies catcher Darren Daulton said he would bring Giles' comments up with the MLBPA (Frank Fitzpatrick, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/15). BARNSTORMING TOUR: The players are set to announce their plans today for a barnstorming tour. Also in Orlando for a meeting of high-profile players, Paul Molitor sought to dispel reports that MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr was losing support. Molitor: "Don, despite the rumors, is not the problem" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 3/15). Molitor said that a "number of companies" are interested in backing the tour, and that Reebok may still want to be involved although maybe not as a title sponsor (USA TODAY, 3/15).
The NFL yesterday discussed a plan that would put 5,000 choice Super Bowl seats up for sale to fans that would purchase a four-year "personal seat license." The right to buy the seats would cost $10,000 and would be similar to PSLs sold by the Carolina Panthers and the would-be St. Louis Rams. NFL officials say the PSLs would generate $50M every four years with the money going to teams in need of stadium improvements. However, to make 5,000 Super Bowl seats available, teams would have to give up their annual allotment. Browns Owner Art Modell, said stadium issues could be handled collectively: "If the city can't do it or the team can't do it, maybe we can get help by doing it collectively" (Don Pierson, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/15).
The Atlanta Ruckus, which almost "folded before playing a single game," will begin play this spring under an agreement in which the A-League, (formerly the APSL) will run the team's day- to-day operations. The league expects to "transfer" the club to local owners next season (Doug Cress, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/15)....The NPSL Chicago Power and Detroit Rockers play a regular season game Friday at New Haven Coliseum. The Connecticut Sports Development Group, which is staging the game and has applied for a franchise, hopes the game will be "another step along a path" to acquire a NPSL team (Jerry Trecker, HARTFORD COURANT, 3/15).