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On his "NBA Beat," ESPN's David Aldridge reported that while the NBPA is "looking into" decertification should the league reopen its CBA next summer, "the agents for several high-profile players are concerned that decertifying may invalidate the guaranteed contracts their players have." Aldridge: "Lawyers are looking for precedence now, but if they don't find an answer that's satisfactory, the NBA's union could be without one of its most powerful arguments when it goes back to the bargaining table" (ESPN, 12/15). HOUSTON'S ROCKET: Charles Barkley appeared on ESPN's "Up Close" on Monday. Barkley, on his talk of a boycott of the All-Star Game and/or the World Championships: "I don't even know if we're going to have to have a boycott, because I think we are going to get locked out. I think there's no question we're going to get locked out" (ESPN, 12/15). OH SPIT! USA TODAY's Roscoe Nance writes the NBA "has alerted teams it is cracking down on excessive use of profanity by coaches and players." Offenders will be fined $2,500 and could be suspended (USA TODAY, 12/16).
There's a "battle brewing" between the NHL and the NHLPA "over the continuance of the Canadian Assistance Plan (CAP)," according to Bob McKenzie of the HOCKEY NEWS. The NHLPA has field a grievance with the NHL "against the CAP, effectively challenging the legality of it." McKenzie reports the move "apparently prevented NHL governors" from formally approving the CAP for another year at the meetings earlier this month in FL. McKenzie: "Instead, the governors 'recommended' its continuance, recognizing its future hinges on the outcome of an arbitration hearing." The CAP is a two-part revenue-sharing plan offering financial aid and incentives to "small-market" Canadian teams. One element gives Canadian teams "certain breaks when they're forced to match a free-agent offer sheet in U.S. dollars." The NHLPA declined comment while the NHL "simply confirmed an NHLPA grievance had been filed" (HOCKEY NEWS, 12/19 issue).
ABL CEO Gary Cavalli said the league has signed 32 of the 35 players it "targeted to retain," according to Bruce Berlet of the HARTFORD COURANT. The three unsigned players are the Blizzard's Jennifer Rizzotti, the Rage's Dawn Staley and the StingRays' Venus Lacy. Rizzotti and Staley "could receive sizable offers from" the WNBA and Cavalli is in talks with their agent, Kenton Edelin, who also represents Rebecca Lobo (HARTFORD COURANT, 12/16).
The LPGA and Ford's Mercury division have created the '98 Mercury LPGA Series, which will provide live TV coverage of seven LPGA tournaments during the '98 season on ESPN and ESPN2. The TV series is a first for the LPGA and expands Mercury's LPGA partnership. Six of the seven events will appear on ESPN2 and one on ESPN. Each tournament will have three days of coverage, Friday through Sunday. The series begins with the HealthSouth Inaugural from January 16-18. ESPN's OCC Sports will produce the series (LPGA). VISIBILITY: LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts, at yesterday's '97 LPGA awards luncheon in NY: "We've got a depth of talent, and the money we're playing for is higher than ever. But visibility is the key to everything. ... Tiger [Woods] expanded the universe of potential fans. Now we have to reel them in with our product. Visibility and television are the most important things." In N.Y., Clifton Brown said while the LPGA had a "remarkable year," it "remains in a fierce battle for attention in a sports market that is more competitive than ever" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/16).