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MLBPA Don Fehr said the players "might need additional time" before they are ready to respond to the owners' latest labor proposal. Fehr told USA TODAY: "The more we look at it, the clearer it is that it will take some substantial evaluation." Fehr is unclear whether the players will have a response by the holidays (Chuck Johnson, USA TODAY, 12/5). ARBITRATION CHANGES? Contrary to an earlier stance, the owners "are willing to retain salary arbitration without reducing the number of eligible players, but that doesn't mean they want to leave the system unaltered," according to Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES. Proposed changes to the arbitration system by the owners: Keeping the outcomes of decisions sealed until all cases are decided; ending eligibility for so-called "Super 2's" -- a group of about 15 players with between two to three years service; making inadmissable the contracts of other players who settled through arbitration; limiting the comparison to salaries of players who have signed multi-year deals to arbitration years -- not free agent years. Chass writes, "The current market, then, could be eliminated as a factor in determining salaries of arbitration players" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5). MINOR UPRISING: The NABPL has been holding its annual meeting in L.A. this week with the participation of MLB execs limited to "a few seminars" and the Rule V draft of minor league free agents. The last joint major-minor league convention was held in Louisville in '92, which acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig described as a "three-ring circus" with almost $260M in player signings dominating. This week, however, minor league execs have made the case for a return to the joint meeting (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 12/5).
By a vote of 27-26, NBA refs agreed to accept the league's final contract offer and ended the lockout the league had imposed on October 1. ESPN charted the salary progress under the new contract: NO EXPERIENCE 20 YEARS+ 1995-96 $75,000 $211,000 2000-01 99,000 278,000 In addition, ESPN's Linda Cohn noted pension payments will now be $2,700 for every year worked, rising to $3,300 by the end of the deal ("SportsCenter," 12/4). According to NBA Senior VP/Legal & Business Affairs Jeffrey Mishkin, the refs are expected to be back working "within a week." Mishkin said their raise is a cumulative 60% over the term of the five-year deal, with an 18.6% increase this year followed by annual raises of 6%, 6%, 14 1/2% and 5% in the remaining years. Increases in pension and severance payments were 10% (Mark Asher, WASHINGTON POST, 12/5). GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "They're back, but they're clearly not happy about it" ("SportsCenter," 12/4). CNN's Paul Crane: "The refs don't get all the money they wanted, but do get more than they had" ("Sports Tonight," 12/4). NBRA General Counsel Fred Slaughter: "The rank and file have spoken. My guys are ready to go" (Shaun Powell, NEWSDAY, 12/5). Refs negotiator Mike Mathis: "You could say it was a good-news, bad-news situation if you want to. We're all happy to be going back to work, but there are some veteran officials who feel this deal wasn't very good for them" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/5). HOW CLOSE WAS IT? Several reports note two veteran refs, Jake O'Donnell and Jack Madden, were absent from the Chicago meeting because of illness. In L.A., Mark Heisler calls veteran refs the union's "hard-liners," and 26-year vet Paul Mihalik believes the absences "could have swung the outcome" (L.A. TIMES, 12/5). Slaughter: "If those two members had come, it's no telling what the outcome would have been" (Roscoe Nance, USA TODAY, 12/5). Mihalik: "As far as being satisfied with what we got? No. We actually came to a point where we stopped comparing ourselves to people in the other sports because it wasn't a good comparison at times in certain areas. We tried to come up with what was fair and equitable, and evidently the majority felt we had reached that point and we had received what we were going to receive" (ESPN, 12/4). The pension plan is still "at issue" (Melissa Isaacson, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/5).
CFL Governors ended their annual meeting last week without a "concrete answer" on which teams are in or out for '96. Questions surround each of the league's five U.S. franchises (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2). Pepper Rodgers, President and coach of the CFL's Memphis Mad Dogs, said he will discuss the possibility of starting a new four-down U.S. league out of the failed American clubs. Rodgers: "I know there's a possibility for a television contract in the States, and not for the CFL" (Marty York, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2)....In Boston, Nick Cafardo examines a proposal to build a 25,000-seat baseball stadium in Worcester, MA, for a possible UBL franchise. The UBL has hired HKS Corp. of Dallas to design the stadium, and former Red Sox GM Lou Gorman and former Sox manager Joe Morgan are floated as a potential brain-trust (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3)....The AHL surpassed the 1 million attendance mark for '95-96 on December 3, the earliest date the league has done so (AHL).
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue meets with Cleveland Mayor Michael White this week on the city's proposed $175M renovation of Cleveland Stadium -- specifically to determine "how solid the proposal is (how real are the dollars?) and what type of renovation can be done." According to Timothy Smith, the meeting "could go a long way in determining" whether Tagliabue recommends that owners vote against the move when they meet on the issue on January 17 in Atlanta (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5). ESPN's Chris Mortensen said it is "not going to be smooth sailing" in terms of league approval for the Browns' move. Mortensen said if the stadium renovation package "works, the league will take up the fight. The city already has Art Modell hung up in the courts. The lease that the city has with the Browns may be very enforcable for three more years -- and, obviously, that would lead to a very ugly situation." Mortensen said the NFL prefers Modell sell the Browns and the Bucs move to Baltimore. A possible compromise is Modell leaving the Browns name in Cleveland and the Bucs to Cleveland ("NFL Prime Monday," 12/4). BLACK QUARTERBACKS: ABC's "Nightline" examined the lack of African-Americans in "thinking positions" in sports, particularly as NFL quarterback. Armen Keteyian noted there are 7 black QBs out of 91 total in the NFL -- 8% in a league that was 68% black last season. Guests were Warren Moon and Bill Walsh. Walsh: "I think communication has improved dramatically between black and white. There are far more black athletes in the National Football League than white, and I think you are going to see a major trend of more black men playing that position" (ABC, 12/4).