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Baseball's owners this week "intensified" discussions about adopting a revenue sharing plan next year with or without a new labor agreement, according to the WASHINGTON POST. A committee headed by Astros Owner Drayton McLane proposed the plan. The owners already have a plan that would transfer $58M annually from large to small-market clubs. However, the owners argue that the plan can't be put in place until there is agreement on curbing players' salaries. McLane's plan would immediately aid small- market clubs which say they need revenue-sharing to survive. Mark Maske notes large-market clubs are "wary" of such a plan without a salary cap or payroll tax (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17). OTHER HAPPENINGS: Dave van Dyck noted from Chicago that one "moderate" owner said the labor situation better be resolved by mid-September if baseball wants to cut a multimillion-dollar deal with Fox (CHICAGO SUN TIMES, 8/15). New York City's Commissioner of Labor Relations Randy Levin appears to be the choice as new chief labor negotiator with an announcement to be "made soon." Owners are also close to hiring a new marketing director (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17). MADAME COMMISSIONER? When asked to name two public figures he thought would be good Commissioners, former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn named former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Colin Powell. Kuhn added while he didn't think either would want the job, he also didn't think the owners would approve either of them because of each one's ability to be a "strong leader" (Bob Wolfley, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/17). UBL GEARING UP: The UBL will hold a press conference today in New York to announce major developments for the season starting in the spring of '96. Included will be information on a commitment for an extensive national media deal, franchise owner/owner groups for the first season, locations of first season stadium facilities, UBL's schedule, and the format for its Championship Series (UBL).
In yesterday's media teleconference, NBA Commissioner David Stern said a deal is the best way to protect the NBA's sponsors and the league's continued growth. Stern: "We are absolutely, flat-out poised for extraordinary growth. The recent Disney acquisition of ABC, with a reference to the importance of ESPN; the fact that an NBC would sort of step up and make its statement by acquiring a sports property such as the Olympics; the fact that CBS further cements its growth by focusing on NCAA basetball; the fact that the Fox network focuses on the NFL and hockey to improve its status; this all speaks well for enormous potential growth of our league. And we think the best way to come up with a collective bargaining agreement is to promise player and owner alike that they will share in that growth. That's why we reached out to the players with the second deal and that's the soft message, in effect, that we're sending both to our sponsors and our players. We understand both the opportunity and the risk and we'd like to take advantage of the opportunity and avoid the risk" (THE DAILY). ARMATO ON "MONEYLINE": Leonard Armato, agent to Shaquille O'Neal, on CNN last night: "A lot of people don't understand just how important it is to companies involved in the sport to be able to plan their marketing themes. And what happens sometimes when there's labor unrest is that those companies start to get a little nervous, and that tends to take money out of the sport. Basketball has been such a fast growing sport and captured the imaginations of fans and sponsors and people all over the world, I think it's dangerous to mess with that right now -- particularly in light of the most recent round of labor negotiations. So, right now before I have analyzed in full detail the proposals that are on the table, my initial indication is that it is best for all to simply settle their differences in connection with the current agreement" (CNN, 8/16).
"The battle over decertification of the NBA Players Association intensified Wednesday as each side hurled inflammatory rhetoric at the other," according to David Moore in this morning's DALLAS MORNING NEWS. "Dissident" players led by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and attorney Jeffrey Kessler held a press conference in Chicago and a teleconference with the media to reiterate their stance, and NBA Commissioner David Stern also held a teleconference to push the league's perspective. Jordan: "A fair deal begins with what we just finished. Everyone has said the league is successful, the players and the owners are both making money. Let's start with that and move forward. Don't start below that and make the players try to get that back. ... I know if David Stern represented the players, he would not ask the players to accept this deal from a business standpoint. Why is he asking us to accept this now?" Stern: "If I were a player, I would say what everyone else knows, and that is the cap was riddled with some Mickey Mouse loopholes that made us a laughing stock. We stepped up and made substantial financial promises to the players. ... I would say, hey, we have a heck of a lot better deal than the football union negotiated by a large margin. I think we struck a pretty good compromise. It's easy to use phrases like rollback, and we did tighten some loopholes. But tell me, is the ability to become a free agent after three years, is the reduction of the draft to one round, is the increase in the percentage of revenue that will push the average salary to $3 million by the end of this deal, a rollback? I would ask people to study this deal and reach their own conclusions" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/17). I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE: According to most press accounts, Stern took direct aim at Kessler for driving the campaign of "misinformation" about decertification and the proposed CBA. Stern: "I listened to a lawyer misrepresent the facts of the deal, and we owe it to our players to get the truth out. We've allowed him to occupy the public, and he's putting out all sorts of disinformation in the newspaper. Maybe I made a mistake in allowing it to be put out there without saying anything before. ... The decertificaiton effort is an attempt to kidnap the negotiation process, and we're not going to abide by the kidnapping. I hate to predict doom, but if it happens, and the owners are clear about this, I don't believe there can be a season" (Dave D'Alessandro, BERGEN RECORD, 8/17). THERE'S A MR. STERN ON LINE 1: According to Jeffrey Denberg in the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Stern "probably will contact dissident players with a personal plea to support the new labor agreement." Stern: "I've been known to lobby our players from time to time." The commissioner also said team execs will reach out as well. Stern: "We have designated people on each team who will talk with the players because we are very interested in having a season. We will urge them to study the deal and vote." Denberg also reports that Stern will call a meeting of owners immediately after the vote (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 8/17). STICK TO YOUR OWN SPORT: Stern took at aim at NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw for urging NBA players to decertify. Stern: "I am especially perplexed as to why Gene Upshaw is going around talking to our players about decertifying. His league has a hard cap. ... I think he would worry about his own league" (L. C. Johnson, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 8/17). MORE FROM MJ & CO.: Jordan in today's CHICAGO TRIBUNE: "What we're asking, and what we're basically using decertification as, is an opportunity to get the fairest deal and he [Stern] controls that issue. We're not striking here. We want to play." Jordan, to the fans: "It's not us causing this. It's the league that has locked us out thus far, which has enabled us to do what we can to give the season back to the fans. ... We don't want the same situation as baseball. But at the same time, I don't think it's fair for them to pressure us to accept a bad deal so that the fans can criticize the players. That's the way the league is positioning this whole situation." Jordan, on the rank-and-file: "Yeah, it's a good deal for us -- for the superstars. But for these young players who are going to move forward and make this league and make the game of basketball as popular as it is today, it's not a good deal for them. That's why we're making this stand" (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/17). Alonzo Mourning: "We should be compensated on our talent, our worth to our team and also the success of the team." Patrick Ewing: "It's printed that I have the most to lose, so if I can step up and put my money where my mouth is, I think all the other guys should do the same" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 8/16).