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WNBA GETS NIKKI: WILL OTHER PLAYERS SOON BE ON THE MOVE?
Published September 17, 1997
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).