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For the first time since late March, MLB's owners made a new collective bargaining proposal to the MLBPA, according to this morning's ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Randy Levine, the owners' new chief labor negotiator, turned over the 65-page plan to the players in a 1 1/2-hour meeting in New York. I.J. Rosenberg reports, "The reaction from the players was not delight. On the other hand, it was not anger, and for two sides typically at each others throats that can be considered a small breakthrough." Neither side would discuss the proposal, but Rosenberg notes it is expected to include a "floating payroll tax based on club revenue." The two sides meet again next week, with a formal response from the union likely when its executive board meets in Florida at the end of this month (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/16). One source with knowledge of the owners' plan told the N.Y. TIMES that the tax rate would increase after clubs spent 50% of their revenues on players salaries. But, the source added, it also includes "complex formulas" on how to get to that point. The plan also reportedly includes a trade-off of earlier free agency for removal of some arbitration rights (N.Y. TIMES, 11/16). MLBPA Associate General Counsel Gene Orza: "In some respects, there is a lot of new material in it. ... We will be doing a lot of reading over the next few days" (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 11/16). IF TRUST IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD, WHAT'S ANTITRUST? With the Browns' move out of Baltimore as a vivid example, acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been touting the positives of baseball's antitrust exemption. Mark Maske examines the issue in today's WASHINGTON POST and reports a bill to limit MLB's exemption -- but not in regard to controlling franchise movement -- has reached the Senate floor. But Rep. Tom Davis, who represents Northern VA and has worked to secure a franchise for the area, promises to increase pressure for a full repeal. Noting the Astros' case, Davis said MLB should be able to "force a bankruptcy" on an owner and that the "free market" should dictate. Davis: "They are not making any friends in Washington doing that [blocking a move to Northern VA]. The antitrust exemption is at the pleasure of Congress. This kind of action just encourages us to withdraw it" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/16).
CFL Commissioner Larry Smith said the league will deal with the possibility of losing one or all of its U.S. franchises at a Governors meeting next month in Toronto (CP/ HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 11/16). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes, "Rumors abound that Smith will be replaced if the league maintains both Canadian and American teams, and there are stories circulating ... that he is gone no matter what form the league takes on" (TORONTO SUN, 11/16)....The CISL's Board of Governors meet today and tomorrow in San Diego at the annual winter meeting. Topics: player compensation, length and time of season; alignment; expansion; league-wide marketing; and the draft. The Board expects to review at least four new franchise applications (CISL)....The MLS holds a news briefing Tuesday, November 21, to introduce senior management and outline national promotions (MLS).... Noting poor attendance in Washington and Long Island, Dave Fay writes the NHL "is getting itself into trouble, which is what happens when you tinker with a product a loyal following loved" (WASH. TIMES, 11/15)....In Indianapolis, Bill Benner examines the dilemma facing IHL Commissioner Bob Ufer: "While he talked on one hand about a hard salary cap in the IHL and keeping ticket prices low, he also spoke of expansion into bigger markets and forging alliances with NBA teams" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 11/16).
Three regular NBA refs worked the Raptors-Rockets game at SkyDome last night, the result of a ruling by Ontario's Labour Relations Board disallowing the use of replacement refs in the province. But, as Bill Harris of the TORONTO SUN reports, while two-man replacement crews continue to work in other NBA cities, "that might not be the case much longer." Mike Mathis, the chief negotiator for the refs, said after three hours of talks with NBA officials yesterday, the officials "could have a deal with the league as early as tomorrow." Mathis: "We're encouraged." But NBA Senior VP/Legal & Business Affairs Jeffrey Mishkin is cautious: "It's too early to say whether or not we are making any progress" (TORONTO SUN, 11/16). NBRA General Counsel Fred Slaughter: "I would say I'm optimistic, and anyone who knows me, knows that that's big" (Dwain Price, FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/16). The refs are seeking annual salary increases of 19% to 20% over a three-year contract, while the league's latest offer is an average annual increase of 8.7% over five years. That includes an immediate 17% increase this year. The refs still claim the NBA's Tuesday proposal leaves a gap of $3,000 to $34,000 between NBA and NHL refs (AP/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/16).
St. Louis officials have asked for, and received, a postponement of a $20M payment due the league from the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) for the relocation of the Rams. St. Louis officials will use the delay (until November 30) to petition the league to lower the fee. NFL Dir of Communications Greg Aiello: "We're willing to listen to them." The $20M was raised from the sale of PSLs and represents the CVC's share of the $29M Rams relocation fee. Under the owners' approval of the Rams' move, the Rams would pay $9M over several years. CVC President Bob Bedell, noting that the league imposed no relocation fee on the Raiders: "I don't see a difference in the circumstances." Bedell said there has been no decision to file suit. Former Sen. Thomas Eagleton, who represents FANS Inc., acknowledged non-payment could result in loss of the team (Lorraine Kee, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/16). ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER LAWSUIT: Clayton Holmes, the Cowboys' suspended cornerback, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Dallas yesterday against the NFL and the NFL Management Council seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow him to play Sunday. Holmes was suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He and his attorney, former NFLPA counsel Grady Irvin, allege Holmes was the victim of an illegal drug test by the Lions last year (Josie Karp, FT. WORTH STAR- TELEGRAM, 11/16). DAILY JERRY JONES SIGHTING: Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones was a guest on "CBS This Morning," which was on location in Dallas today. Asked about his deals causing a chain reaction of frnahcise moves: "What's happening, although none of us like the idea of clubs leaving cities -- that's not good for the NFL -- but what is really happening is that great new stadiums are being built around the country for our game and for our teams." While Jones talked, CBS showed footage of Texas Stadium addorned with the Nike logo. Jones noted he is in favor of TV revenue-sharing, adding that he couldn't change that if he wanted to becuase it takes all 30 owners to approve a TV deal (CBS, 11/16).