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Robert Kheel, lead negotiator for MLB in its labor dispute with locked out umpires, said there must be a settlement within "the next couple days" for the umpires to be ready for Opening Day. The MLBUA delivered a new proposal on Monday, but Kheel said there were no talks yesterday. Kheel: "We're substantially apart still" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 4/19). MLBUA General Counsel Richie Phillips made an offer that the umpires would return to work if the owners agreed to continue negotiations until a new CBA is reached. Phillips "said he has been assured there will be support from players and that President Clinton will not cross picket lines to throw out the first pitch opening day." But White House spokesperson Ginny Terzano said no decision has been made. MLB spokesperson Rich Levin: "As far as I know, the president has not been invited to attend any of the openers" (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 4/19). FEHR SOFTENS COLLUSION TALK: MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr "downplayed" comments he made regarding a union investigation of collusion among owners on players' salaries this spring. Fehr said the union "always reviews" for possible collusion, but that they have no specific evidence relating to this spring (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 4/19).
NBA players "were portrayed yesterday as being outraged that they have not been informed of the reasons behind the abrupt resignation" of NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham, writes Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES. "Some players, according to their agents, believe the union is engaged in a cover-up of the real reasons" for Grantham's departure. A joint release from the union and Grantham on Friday cited only "irreconcilable differences," and as of yesterday players still had not been informed what that meant. In an interview, Grantham denied all rumors: "How many organizations have you seen change leaderships? It's never one thing; it's a series of several things. Leadership wanted to go in one direction, I in another. There was disagreement. I chose to resign." Simon Gourdine, the NBPA's General Counsel and a former Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, has taken over as Exec Dir. While one agent says that "no one expects Simon to be the one negotiating with David Stern," Chass floats a "bizarre" scenario by which Richard Ravitch, former negotiator for MLB's owners, would take over the NBPA's negotiations. Ravitch headed New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority when Gourdine was counsel there. In addition, labor lawyers and agents both raised concerns that a financial settlement was reached with Grantham without a vote of player reps, and that Gourdine assumed the Exec Dir position without a vote of the Executive Board (N.Y. TIMES, 4/19). MORE DIGGING: Jackie MacMullan reports that Grantham was "forced out because of alleged improprieties involving expense accounts." One player rep: "It had nothing to do with collective bargaining" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/18).