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The Lions and Cowboys will continue to host their traditional Thanksgiving Day games. A proposal by Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt never came to a vote. There is "no assurance" the game will stay in Detroit after next season, but the team believes "enough support was gained to keep the game in Detroit for the foreseeable future" (DETROIT NEWS, 3/16).... "They may go kicking and screaming," but the 49ers are expected to comply with the league's request that they play the Broncos in Tokyo on August 6. The teams are already scheduled to play in the exhibition opener. Most likely, they will have to play back-to- back, with the 49ers in Denver on July 29 (Ira Miller, S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/16).
Several star players held a press conference in Orlando, FL, to "reaffirm their solidarity," express their support for their union leadership and discuss the proposed "barnstorming" tour which would start in April if the season opens with replacements. The MLBPA would not release specifics on the tour "but said it is working on such things as sponsors, securing dates and stadiums, and the legal issues of using players under contract" (Marc Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/16). MLBPA Licensing Dir Judy Heeter, on the tour: "We never viewed it as something we would do to be inflammatory. It's our way of putting baseball back on the field if we can't do it any other way" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/16). The players were told that Reebok had withdrawn as tour sponsor (Chuck Johnson, USA TODAY, 3/16). RIPKEN FACTOR: MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said that Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak should be preserved because replacement games should not count in the standings. MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza: "You don't draw lines in the sand in collective bargaining, but that's a line in the sand. You can take it to the bank that scab games will not count in the standings. The players will not go back to work if they do." Ripken was at the press conference (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 3/16). Management sources say the owners "certainly would not agree to eliminate replacement records," citing the potential of lawsuits from refund-seeking fans (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/16). WEEKEND OUTLOOK: No talks are scheduled, although Special Mediator William Usery is pushing for this weekend. There "may even be a private meeting" between Fehr and Bud Selig (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/16). MLBPA attorney Lauren Rich: "I believe we are at a crossroads. If we don't get a deal in the next 10 days, you are looking at a renewed era of endless litigation" (Baltimore SUN, 3/16). PROGRESS ON ANOTHER FRONT: The locked-out umpires have withdrawn the unfair labor practices charges they had filed against the AL and NL ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/15). NOTHING TO SPIT ABOUT: MLB announced it will continue to enforce a ban on all tobacco products throughout the minor leagues -- from Rookie League to AAA. MLB Dir of Minor League Ops Jimmie Lee Solomon: "We instituted the ban because we were concerned about the health of the people in our organizations, as well as the image they portray" (MLB). NEWS & NOTES: The Phillies took out a full-page ad in the St. Pete Times, the Tampa Tribune and USA Today addressed to the Harp Family of Largo, Florida. The family is a fixture at spring training. The ad reads in part: "We are playing baseball. ... Make a day of it at the park, like you've always done" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/15)....The Indians announced a modified policy giving any paid- in-full season plan holder the option to cancel their seats for the upcoming season and retain the opportunity to repurchase for '96 with a per seat deposit (Indians)....The Red Sox will discount ticket prices 50% for April home games, regardless of whether the strike is settled. The team says 94% of its season- ticket holders have renewed (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/16). ....The Rangers have sold about 21,000 tickets for their opener against the Yankees. At this time last year, the Ballpark (41,219 capacity) was sold out (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/16)....Giants Owner Peter Magowan predicts that the season will start with replacements. Magowan said, if anything, the owners have "hardened over the last few months," and that they know what to expect from replacement games -- "a third to a fourth of our regular attendance." Glenn Dickey writes, what is "scary" is that Magowan is a "moderate in the baseball world" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/16).
"While Canada is still hockey's soul, the country is being buried in a new era of American big money and big markets," writes Michael Farber in the current issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Thus far, teams in American warm weather markets are doing well at the gate after the 103-day lockout, while Canadian teams are not. Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton are playing to only 82% capacities, while the NHL sites in the U.S. Sun Belt and CA are filling 92% of their seats. Quebec, with the league's best record, is only drawing 90%, after getting 98% while having the league's worst record five years ago. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "We're the national sport of Canada, not the national sport of the U.S. No matter how large we grow, we won't turn our back on our roots. And our roots are up in Canada." But with rumors of Nordiques and Jets' moves increasing, Bettman says the NHL will not stay in Winnipeg and Quebec if they don't get new arenas: "I don't view this as blackmail. My discussions with the mayors (of Quebec and Winnipeg) have pointed out that if they want to have a sports franchise in the 21st century, they must appropriately house them." The Canadian government, involved in cultural protection of Canadian movies, TV and magazines along with business protection, has done little about protecting hockey. Parliament member Dennis Mills says he will convene a hockey task force of government members by the end of April: "It's time we look at it as an industry. If we thought General Motors was going to pull a van plant out of Oshawa (Ont.), we'd go crazy and make sure it didn't happen" (SI, 3/20 issue). For more on NHL attendance, see the THE DAILY's Turnstile Tracker, featuring the NHL's Eastern Conference.
NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman have "agreed in principle" to allow NHL players to participate in the '98 Winter Games in Nagano. The two met with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and officials from the IIHF in Lussanne, Switzerland. NHL VP of Public Relations Arthur Pincus: "There is a series of issues that has to be worked out before a definite commitment can be made. We're operating on a timetable of mid-July for a final decision." The NHL would have to stop its season for 10-12 days to accommodate the Games. The possibility of staging of a World Cup Tournament in '97 was also discussed (George Gross, TORONTO SUN, 3/16).