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Patrick Ewing's election as NBPA President "comes at a very pivotal time for the players association," according to Mike Wise of the N.Y. TIMES. With the "growing possibility that the league will reopen" the CBA next year, "he could be at the forefront of securing a new deal and coping with a potential lockout." Ewing, who led a move to decertify the union in '95, was accused with others "of essentially being a tool of what many perceived to be an agent-led movement." But Ewing and others "feel that many of their predictions regarding the league turning into a caste system under the current agreement have come true" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17). WOMEN'S DAY: NBA VP Rod Thorn confirmed that "the league is preparing for the potential introduction of female officials this season," according to Ira Winderman of the Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL. The final referee roster will be determined later this month, but Winderman writes that the league is "expected to add a significant number of new officials" in the wake of the IRS investigation of several veteran referees (Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 9/17).
MLB Realignment Committee Chair and Red Sox CEO John Harrington said that "it's possible but unlikely that owners will vote" this week on a realignment plan, according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Harrington: "If we can whittle them down to two or three and do more study, maybe you take a vote in two or three weeks. But there can be a breakthrough here" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/17). Harrington: "Everybody wants to do something. They just don't want it to affect them. Do open-heart surgery, but don't leave a mark" (Tom Haudricourt, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/17). The committee will meet this morning and then present data in separate NL and AL meetings (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 9/17). In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg writes that "one thing was clear" from yesterday's meetings -- "a compromise will be tough to reach" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/17). In N.Y., Murray Chass reports that realignment "has stalled so badly that it may be moving in reverse" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17). ESPN's Peter Gammons: "Everyone wants something to change they just don't want to be affected by it, and that's really a serious problem" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 9/16). MURPHY'S LAST STAND? In N.Y., Bill Madden writes that Selig "is under fire ... for failing to deal with the issue" of MLBE President Greg Murphy, "whom the owners want fired." Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner did not attend the meetings "because his suit with adidas against baseball probably won't get settled until" Murphy is "gone." A Yankee source said that the suit "is close to being settled, with adidas getting a share of the major league apparel deal, but that Murphy is still holding out to cut an exclusive deal with Nike" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/17). EVERYBODY MURRAY FRUM TONIGHT: In Toronto, Jim Byers reports that while the sale of the Blue Jays to a group led by Murray Frum is on MLB's agenda, "sources said the deal likely wouldn't get approved and that there are still some wrinkles, including the lack of financial disclosures by one of the consortium members and perhaps even some new faces in the deal." But Frum said that "there are no new faces in his group and that he isn't aware of any outstanding issues with his ownership bid" (TORONTO STAR, 9/17).
MLS Commissioner Doug Logan pointed to four "success stories" and two areas of "deep concern" in looking at this season's MLS attendance, according to Jerry Langdon of USA TODAY. MLS has seen overall attendance drop 16.3% this year from 17,416 to 14,573. Logan is pleased with fan support in New England, Washington, DC, and Colorado, while adding the Tampa Bay Mutiny, who are down 3.4%, has "done well to basically hold its base." Logan did "show concern" over the Dallas Burn, down 38.4%, and the KC Wizards, down 31.5%. Logan: "We're going to analyze these two situations. ... [W]e should be drawing more" (USA TODAY, 9/17). Logan added that "more weekday games are anticipated" next year. The league had 88% of its games on weekends this year. In other news, Langdon reports that a TV deal has been reached "in principle" with ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 on a contract for next year, "but no details have been released" (USA TODAY, 9/17). IN FLORIDA: The Broward School Board has "approved a tentative lease agreement" at Ft. Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium for the MLS Fusion. The team is also "continuing" talks with the city of Miami (MIAMI HERALD, 9/17).
The ABL's '96 MVP Nikki McCray officially changed leagues yesterday and signed with the WNBA. In a statement, ABL CEO Gary Cavalli said, "Nikki is an excellent player, and we will miss her. But the sun still came up this morning, and the ABL is alive and well." Cavalli said that in her contract negotiations, McCray asked for a salary that was more than three times as much of other '96 U.S. Olympians in the ABL. She also requested the first right of refusal on all major endorsement deals offered to ABL players. He called the demands "unrealistic, excessive, and unfair to the other players in the league" (ABL). DETAILS: McCray's attorney, DC-based Lon Babby, said that McCray turned down a more lucrative offer from the ABL but that the "key" to her decision were the "promotional opportunities" (Amy Shipley, WASHINGTON POST, 9/17). Cavalli called McCray's request for the right of first refusal on endorsement deals "outrageous," adding, "There's no way a league could ever agree to something like that" (Aaron Portzline, COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 9/16). In Philadelphia, Mel Greenberg reports that McCray "is expected to become another WNBA player spokeswomen, joining Rebecca Lobo, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie, who all received reported $250,000 deals." McCray, "one of the few" ABL players who initially signed a one-year deal, on the WNBA: "Watching their season this year, they generated a lot of fan support" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/17). More McCray: "It went back and forth daily, and I pretty much decided over the weekend" (Bobby Hall, COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 9/17). McCray: "The ABL was a success last year, but just looking at the whole situation ... and the two proposals that were made to me, I felt the WNBA was the best choice for me" (ESPN, 9/16). WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? In Washington, Amy Shipley writes the move is "yet another signal that the ABL will be hard-pressed to stand up to the enormous power of the NBA- backed WNBA." But Shipley adds a "flurry of defections is unlikely to be precipitated by McCray's move" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/17). Cavalli: "Is it war? No. But it is open season" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/17). More Cavalli: "A number of W.N.B.A. players have contacted us about moving after the coming season and we will talk to them." WNBA President Val Ackerman: "We are very interested in attracting the best players we can find, wherever they come from" (Frank Litsky, N.Y. TIMES, 9/17). In N.Y., Ursula Reel examines the two leagues and writes, "Things aren't looking too good for the ABL." Reel adds that ABL execs and players "wonder how they've become the 'other league' when their league came first" (N.Y. POST, 9/17). CHANGE LEAGUES AND GAMES? USA TODAY's Valerie Lister reports that McCray doesn't have any endorsements yet, but "is negotiating a contract" with Fila (USA TODAY, 9/17).