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NBA officials "reportedly are privately talking about a lockout this summer," according to Sam Smith of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, because the CBA approved by the players last September was never signed. Bulls Player Rep Steve Kerr, who is resigning over the "furor": "The league is claiming union leadership reneged on a lot of the negotiations [former NBPA Exec Dir Simon Gourdine] did. No one seems to know what Simon negotiated. To me, it's minor details. But I think it could get ugly. The whole thing is wacko. All of a sudden our union is being led by the law firm that tried to get the union decertified." Smith notes the talk, according to some "insiders," is of an August 1 lockout, "giving teams time to make free-agent deals, but then shutting down the league again until a final agreement can be reached" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/2). NBA Senior VP for Legal & Business Affairs Jeffrey Mishkin avoided talk of a lockout: "We have an agreement. [The NBPA is] trying to repudiate many of the key points. But we plan to operate under the terms of that agreement as we believe it to be." Agent Bill Strickland, a candidate to be new NBPA Exec Dir: "It would not surprise me if the league locked us out again. There have been quiet whispers for the last few weeks. The league is trying to convince people that the disputed points were agreed to, but I can tell you I was very involved and there are a lot that weren't. Based on the information I have, there is no agreement." Union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who took over negotiations on the details of the new CBA after the ouster of Gourdine, does not believe the league has the "legal standing" to institute a lockout. Kessler: "Both sides agree there is a document. We disagree on the terms." In Boston, Peter May notes the deadline is July 1, when the "floodgates will open" for free agents and new deals (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2).
South Korea and Japan, the two contenders to stage the 2002 World Cup, were told Friday to co-host the event, according to the FINANCIAL TIMES. The "unprecedented decision" forces the two historically antagonistic countries to share the responsibilities and revenue of the event and was an "embarrassment" for FIFA President Joao Havalange who had backed Japan's bid. Japanese officials described the decision as "unfair and foresaw serious disputes over which country would host the opening ceremony and the final." The decision will "force FIFA to begin new negotiations on broadcasting rights" to the Cup, as initial offers were taken on the "assumption that the competition would be staged in one country" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/1). The move "dilutes the economic benefits of the games," and the "biggest headache is expected to come in deciding which country will stage the final match" (Shirouzu & Cho, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/3). The move was "a major victory for the Koreans" and a "fierce disappointment for Japan." The Japanese spent a reported $75M on their bid, establishing a pro soccer league to gain "global credibility" (John Powers, BOSTON GLOBE, 6/1). U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg called the ramifications "huge," adding, "There is a background of animosity and a lot of hurdles ahead" (George Vecsey, N.Y. TIMES, 6/2). In Washington, John Haydon notes "FIFA's decision was a big surprise, but ultimately the right one" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 6/1). NEWS & NOTES: FIFA also awarded the '99 Women's World Cup to the U.S., with U.S. officials regarding DC's RFK Stadium as the leading site for the semifinals and finals (Berkowitz & Sullivan, WASHINGTON POST, 6/1)....IMG is reportedly one of two candidates to take control of the French soccer club Olympique Marseille. The offer is part of a strategy to extend IMG into the "hugely profitable and growing business" of European soccer (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/1).
MLB's weekend action was dominated by coverage of the Indians-Brewers series, where a bench-clearing ball followed Albert Belle's throwing of a forearm into Brewers 2B Fernando Vina while running out a grounder. Belle earlier had been hit by a pitch, and many in the media felt his hit on Vina was malicious ("Baseball 96," CNN, 6/1). Belle's behavior is the focus of USA TODAY's Sports cover story, as his "baggage [is] getting heavier by the day" (Johnson & Antonen, USA TODAY, 6/3). Fox's Steve Lyons: "At what point do some of his teammates stop supporting some of the things that he's doing?" Fox's Jeff Torborg: "I thought it was good clean baseball" ("Fox Saturday Baseball," 6/1). CNN's Tim Kurkjian, on Belle: "I'm sure they'll look at these tapes, but I don't think he'll be suspended. ... He's really going to hurt somebody" ("Baseball 96," 6/1). ESPN's Peter Gammons: "I don't think anything is going to happen. Ever since the owners got rid of the commissionership, they got the anarchy they sought, and the Players Association isn't going to do anything because the Players Association is a rich man's guild" ("SportsWeekly," 6/2). In DC, Mark Maske quotes one AL exec who said that AL President Gene Budig wanted to fine or suspend Belle for throwing baseballs at an SI photographer, but "the union raised hell." The exec: "At some point, even the union is going to have to say 'Enough is enough'" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/2). ESPN's John Feinstein, on the Vina incident: "How can Bud Selig [acting Commissioner/Brewers Owner] properly adjudicate the situation? What he should do is suspend Albert Belle for a month at least, but he can't" (SportsReporters," ESPN, 6/2). MEETINGS: Although quarterly owners meetings in Philadelphia were canceled, MLB's Executive Council will meet Wednesday with the "most significant" figuring to be Reds Owner Marge Schott, "who has been invited to attend." The council is expected to decide within a week whether or not to discipline Schott for embarrassing comments and her operation of the team (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 6/2).