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After being on the opposite sides of the NBA's labor dispute, NBPA VP Charles Smith and decertification leader Patrick Ewing talked out their differences before starting another season as Knicks teammates. Smith: "Now that we're back together, I think we both realize that we're better in shorts and sneakers than we are in suits and ties." Smith, rumored to be stepping down as union VP now wants to succeed Buck Williams as NBPA President (N.Y. TIMES, 10/7). BUCK STOPS HERE? Williams, on the criticism he endured during the dispute: "It made me a better person and strengthened my character. I got experience and developed a sense of humor." Williams also said he is severing his ties with agent David Falk, who helped lead the decertification movement. Williams: "I have one foot out the door, and I'm trying to get the other foot out." Williams is in the final year of his Blazers contract and does not know if he will return for next season (AP/SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/9). BACK IN THE FOLD: Interviewed on the set of Michael Jordan's new movie, "Space Jam," Jordan and Patrick Ewing were asked by CBS' Pat O'Brien whether other NBA players understand their position. Ewing: "We hope so. If they don't, so be it. All we were trying to do was fight for everybody else. ... They will see in a couple of years when people will be getting cut because there is no room in the salary cap to sign them, and then they will realize." Jordan: "From the public standpoint, you know we have an easy job already. But it is a business, a major, major business. We were trying to make the best business decision for a lot of the players, and they made their choice at the end and I live with that" ("CBS Sports Show," 10/7). MORE LABOR WOES: The NBA and its locked-out referees return to the bargaining table this week. Mike Mathis, the refs' lead negotiator: "We're willing and wanting to talk and get back to work." The NBA has offered a five-year deal with raises averaging 6% a year (USA TODAY, 10/10). Fred
The NFL has signed Nike to a five-year licensing deal estimated at $200M, only one month after the league took aim at Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' signing of Nike as sponsor of Texas Stadium. According to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES, the NFL has been trying to make a deal with Nike "for several months," but was "derailed" by Jones. Sandomir reports, "Although NFL Properties got Nike back to the negotiating table, its deal with Nike might have been larger if not for Jones." Nike now becomes an NFL Pro Line licensee allowing them to supply uniforms and apparel for coaches and sideline personnel, as well as to sell Pro Line apparel in retail outlets. Nike will also buy air time on NFL network broadcasts and work with the league on developing youth programs. NFL Properties President Sara Levinson said the Nike deal does not change their legal position and that their $300M lawsuit against Jones over his Nike and Pepsi deals will continue (N.Y. TIMES, 10/9). On NBC's pregame show, Will McDonough reported that the NFL-Nike deal could have been announced three months ago and for more money, "but Jerry screwed it up" ("NFL on NBC," 10/8). An NFL release refers to the Nike agreement as "the largest deal in the history of team sports licensing" (NFL). TIRED OF TALKING: In his Sunday BOSTON GLOBE column, McDonough reports that Jones will file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. Jones: "I've had my fill of talking and getting nothing resolved." Jones said after making his arguments before the NFL owners' special committee, "they know now, and acknowledge, that I did not break any rules." Jones added -- with the Jaguars' Wayne Weaver in mind -- "I hope that some of the owners who took this action against me weren't doing the same things that I have done. Wayne was one of the guys that voted to sue. He may be more guilty of [violating NFL Properties agreements] than anything I have ever done. He might have a hard time trying to explain his actions in court. Our suit will get to the core of the issue. It will be antitrust" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/9). WARRING PARTNERS: Jones joins Raiders Owner Al Davis with a lawsuit pending against the league. 49ers President Carmen Policy: "Let's get on with it. Let's get to court once and for all and find out what the deal is. These guys only care about themselves." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson: "These owners are going to tear our league apart. We get a great labor agreement. We get a great television deal. Everything should be great, and our own partners are suing us. Well, before they know it, these $200 million franchises will be worth $50 million in a hurry because of their actions" (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/9). Patriots CEO Bob Kraft, interviewed during halftime of TNT's coverage of the Patriots/Broncos: "Jerry is one of the smartest marketing and sales people I know, but sometimes his style can be something that is abrasive to other people. But his ideas are great. This is 1995, the year of the internet, we're coming into the millennium, and I think we have to look at different ways of marketing our product." Kraft on a possible Jones countersuit: "I really hope that we can settle this in the family -- and I believe that we will do that. ... We have the best sports/entertainment product in America, TNT knows that, and we have to make sure we don't do anything to damage that" ("NFL on TNT," 10/8). AMEX DEAL: As expected, Jones announced another deal outside of NFL Properties, making AmEx "the official charge and credit card" of Texas Stadium and the only card accepted for Cowboys season-ticket purchases (Greg Clarkin, N.Y. POST, 10/7). Visa is the official credit card of the NFL.
"Baseball's image is on the mend," according to a CNN/ USA TODAY/GALLUP poll conducted during the divisional playoffs last week (October 5-7). Fans were asked to compare their present interest in the game with last year: 47% said they were "as interested" (up from 30% in April), and the number of those responding "less interested" fell from 69% in April to 51%. Fan opposition to the new playoff system seems to be "dying down as well." From the October survey: 26% in favor, 19% opposed, 53% doesn't matter. From May: 26% in favor, 33% opposed, 40% doesn't matter. On MLB's broadcast schedule, 36% were opposed, compared to 58% in May. While the number in favor didn't change much (up one point to 13%), those who said it "does not matter much" increased from 29% to 49% (USA TODAY, 10/9). TALKIN' BASEBALL: With the first-ever round of divisional playoffs now complete and the LCS to begin tonight, the baseball media offers mostly positive reviews of the new system. In Baltimore, Buster Olney writes, "Well, the purists, including this one, were wrong: the first divisional playoffs have been a rousing success" (Baltimore SUN, 10/8). In DC, Tom Boswell writes, "When it comes to first courses, baseball most certainly served up a gourmet treat last week" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/10). In Tampa, Bill Chastain writes, "Save for a few stupid TV tricks and the need for some fine tuning, baseball's expanded playoffs look like a winner from this view" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/9). In Ft. Worth, Roger Brown writes, "For all of those traditionalists knocking the new wild-card format, baseball came back with a strong answer -- exciting and pulsating games that went right down to the wire" (FT. WORTH STAR TELEGRAM, 10/10). In L.A., Ross Newhan writes, "The best way to put it, perhaps, is that baseball overcame business" (L.A. TIMES, 10/10). On ABC's "World News Tonight," Dick Schapp reported that "October Fever" has brought fans back. Columnist Bill Conlin: "Good games are the fuel that drives the engine of baseball" (ABC, 10/9). NOT ALL GOOD NEWS: A piece on baseball in this week's BUSINESS WEEK by David Greising and Stephen Baker is entitled, "The Bozos of October: It's a Tough Job, but the Owners Are Making Fans Even Angrier" (BUSINESS WEEK, 10/16). An editorial in Monday's USA TODAY focuses on the problems with the regional broadcasts: "The mistake was putting networks' needs above fan interest, when fan interest is essential to the game's health" (USA TODAY, 10/10). And in L.A., Jim Murray writes, "Expediency counts over morality, and television counts over all" (L.A. TIMES, 10/8).