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There was no meeting between suspended Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and NBA officials yesterday, as reported. Instead, the league reiterated its position on suspending Abdul-Rauf indefinitely over his refusal to stand for the national anthem, while Abdul-Rauf released a statement clarifying his position (Mult., 3/14). This morning's DENVER POST quotes one Abdul-Rauf "confidant," who says, "The statement may have been step one. And I look for step two to happen today. I think he will say something that will get him back to playing basketball." Should he comply, "it may be because he was convinced to change his position by other prominent Muslims" (DENVER POST, 3/14). UNION REAX: The NBPA will file a grievance against the NBA over Abdul-Rauf's suspension, according to the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. NBPA Acting Exec Dir Alex English: "The rule the league relies on was not agreed to in collective bargaining, but was imposed by the league unilaterally in an operations manual without any input from the players" (Curtis Bunn, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/14). More from English: "I feel that the action the NBA took was a little premature and a bit strong. We could have dealt with it in a different way" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/13). ANOTHER MUSLIM PLAYER WEIGHS IN: Hakeem Olajuwon disagreed with Abdul-Rauf's interpretation of the Koran in regards to nationalism. Olajuwon: "In general, Islamic teachings require every Muslim to obey and respect the law of the countries they live in. ... Islamic teachings is to worship none but God, but you respect the flag. You respect and honor America. That is what is distinguished, between worshipping and respect" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/14). OTHER MUSLIM REAX: Howard Univ.'s Sulayman Nyang: "The mainstream scholars are clear that you honor the country you are in, as long as the country protects you" (Larry Witham, WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/14). Colorado Muslim Council's Mohamad Jodeh: "Where he gets the interpretation not to stand, I don't know" ("World News," ABC, 3/14). LEGAL ISSUES: Asked if the case is a freedom of religion case, Duke Law Prof. John Weistart notes the constitution does not apply because the government is not involved. Weistart said league-union relations is the "forum" in which the matter should be resolved because it allows the matter to be talked over in a "private, non-public way" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/13). Attorney Kevin Baine, of Williams & Connolly, said Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act is the pertinent statute, not the First Amendment. The "significant question," according to Baine, "is whether the NBA is unable to reasonably accommodate Abdul-Rauf's religious beliefs without undue hardship" (Ken Denlinger, WASHINGTON POST, 3/14).
NFL owners "don't have a lot to show for their four days of meetings at the plush Breakers Resort and Beach Club," according to Paul Domowitch of the PHILA. DAILY NEWS. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did approve the experimental use of instant replay during the '96 preseason, and "the league will experiment with it unofficially during the regular season." Domowitch notes if they are "satisfied," replay could return in '97 (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 3/14). But Thomas George of the N.Y. TIMES notes some owners and coaches understood if the pre-season experiment worked, it could be implemented in '96 by a special vote. Tagliabue "insisted" that was not the case (N.Y. TIMES, 3/14). LOOSE ENDS: The "hot-button issues" of franchise free- agency and revenue sharing were left unresolved, and Tagliabue noted he would convene a special meeting in April to vote on the Oilers move. In Washington, Leonard Shapiro notes the owners did "virtually nothing." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson: "I'm exhausted and we didn't do anything." Asked why the league had yet to address franchise relocation, Tagliabue said -- "somewhat testily" -- "It's like [Giants GM] George Young says, 'You want me to have peace in Bosnia, but you work out the details'" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14). A "disgusted" Bucs GM Rich McKay: "This was a typical NFL owners' meeting" (Tim Panaccio, PHILA. INQUIRER, 3/14). Wilson: "Call us the National Floating League" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/14). Asked if he was going to Cincinnati to lobby for the tax increase before Tuesday's vote on a new facility for the Bengals, Tagliabue said, "Not that I'm aware of." This "fueled speculation" the league wouldn't mind seeing the Tuesday sales-tax vote fail, allowing the Bengals to move (Bart Hubbuch, Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 3/14). TALK TURKEY: Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt "unexpectedly re- opened" the issue of the Thanksgiving Day game, including the discussion as part of his bid to have conference championships played at neutral sites and to expand the playoffs from 12 to 16 teams. A questionnaire was given on the Thanksgiving contest, asking owners their thoughts on rotating or adding a game. Lions COO Chuck Schmidt was "upset" with the timing (Mike O'Hara, DETROIT NEWS, 3/14). NEWS & NOTES: NFL spokesperson Joe Browne said the league expects to house Browns' records and memorabilia in a trust at the Hall of Fame, while the team awaits a new owner (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 3/14)....The Cowboys are likely to play the Chiefs in the American Bowl in Monterrey, Mexico, this August. The Cowboys will also play the Oilers in Orlando during preseason. The Citrus Bowl is paying each team $1M for the appearance (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/14).... Dolphins Owner Wayne Huizenga "cleared a major hurdle" on cross-ownership when the Finance Committee recommended changing the policy. The Committee suggested owners be allowed to control more than one pro franchise as long as the teams compete in the same market (MIAMI HERALD, 3/13). ....San Francisco's "pullout" as host of the '99 Super Bowl is expected to be finalized this week. S.F. Mayor Willie Brown is expected to ask for 2002 (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/14).