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NBA Commissioner David Stern "has met several times this week" with Latrell Sprewell's attorney Johnnie Cochran, according to John Walls of "Fox Sports News." Walls added that Stern "hopes to find a solution to the Sprewell matter, thus avoiding arbitration and what he fears will be an unfavorable decision for the NBA" ("FSN," 12/17). SNAP, CRACKLE, POP: In S.F., David Steele writes the NBA "snapped, lost patience, acted rashly, crossed the line without seriously considering the consequences" in its Sprewell suspension. Steele calls for a settlement in the matter, because in the upcoming arbitration, "everyone's dirty laundry will be on display" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/18). WRITE, JESSE, WRITE: Jesse Jackson writes the "Point After" in the current SI: "There are many issues involving race and sports worth getting excited about. ... But for all the hype surrounding Latrell Sprewell, the incident between him and his coach most assuredly does not belong in this group." Jackson said that the issue won't lead him to picket or rally or march in support of Sprewell. Jackson: "If the Sprewell episode has a larger implication, it is found in a sports-entertainment industry that tells athletes at a very young age that they may play by a different set of rules than their fellow students, that coddles them and spoils them and that showers them with rewards out of all proportion to their contributions to society" (SI, 12/22). MORE GOOD NEWS: USA TODAY's David DuPree writes the NBA "has seen its attendance take an early-season tumble," down 2.5% from last season to 16,648 a game. DuPree noted while attendance "usually picks up after New Year's," if the numbers hold, "it will be the second season in a row that attendance has fallen after an increase in each of the previous five seasons" (USA TODAY, 12/18).
In St. Paul, Charley Walters writes the "latest word" is the NFL "will try to assist" Vikings President Roger Headrick "in acquiring financing" to become the team's 30% managing partner (PIONEER PRESS, 12/18)....The ABL opened its locker room doors to reporters 20 minutes before and after games from December 8-15 on a trial basis. The league will ask "for feedback" and is "expected to decide on a policy this week." The league has kept its doors closed to the media and players are interviewed in separate rooms. ABL Dir of Media Relations Dean Jutilla: "Most of the feedback has been positive for keeping them closed" (HARTFORD COURANT, 12/18). In other ABL news, Dwight Chapin wrote that with ABL attendance up 20% and the quality of play "markedly improved," it "seems to be very much in the game against the big-bucks WNBA" (S.F. EXAMINER, 12/17).
IBF and WBA heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield has told promotor Don King that he wants a unification bout with WBC champ Lennox Lewis, according to Greg Logan of NEWSDAY. Sources say that Lewis "has accepted King's purse offer and agreed in principle to give King a financial interest in his future fights, and Holyfield is prepared to leave Showtime for this one fight" to appear on Time Warner's TVKO, which holds exclusive rights to Lewis. Logan: "Only one obstacle stands in the way of a Holyfield-Lewis bout in the spring -- King. ... The major sticking point is King's objection to televising the fight on TVKO because of his long-standing feud with HBO Sports head Seth Abraham." Holyfield's attorney Jim Thomas said his fighter would prefer to fight for Showtime, but added, "We're told the only way the fight can be made legally is at HBO. We have to go there to get the unification fight" (NEWSDAY, 12/18).
The CFL's Board of Governors concluded its two days of meetings in Toronto and announced scheduling changes to be more "fan friendly," according to Tony Maraschiello of the TORONTO SUN. Maraschiello: "As part of the new focus on the fans, there will be no weekend games next season before Labor Day, an indication the CFL is listening to the fans who want to spend their summer weekends at the cottage. After Labor Day, all games will be either Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon, giving school kids an opportunity to attend games." CFL Chair John Tory said that it "appears" the league will be debt free for the '98 season. Tory added talks are still continuing with the World League about playing a World Classic Bowl in June (TORONTO SUN, 12/18). The league also unveiled three marketing slogans for '98: Made in Canada for Canadians, Back to Our Future and Making Football Fun Again (Mark Harding, TORONTO STAR, 12/18). Tory added that the league schedule will be released Monday, "months head" of usual: "Given our history, the schedule usually isn't out until March" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/18). TV PACKAGE: The league will continue to play Sunday games after September 1 despite being urged by CBC Sports head Alan Clark to avoid going up against the NFL. Tory: "[O]ur fans comes first. [TV] revenue is important to us and we want the money and exposure, but when it comes to money it probably represents less than 10 per cent of what teams take in." But Tory added that "for the first time in league history there will likely" be live broadcasts next season of CFL games on ESPN2 (TORONTO STAR, 12/18).