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UNION AND PLAYERS HIT THE STREETS TO DEFEND SPREWELL
Published December 8, 1997
Latrell Sprewell's contract termination by the Warriors and his one-year suspension by the NBA dominated much of the weekend media. It was the subject of both NBC's "Meet The Press" and ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. Sprewell's agent, Arn Tellem, was the lead guest on ABC's "This Week," along with John Feinstein and Walt Frazier. ABC's Sam Donaldson said that NBA Commissioner David Stern and "many owners" declined the invitation to appear on the show. Tellem, asked if race had anything to do with the outcome of the incident: "I think when you look at it -- I don't think the issue of race can be ignored. ... I think it must be looked into." Tellem said that while he has spoken with Johnnie Cochran, Cochran has yet to be hired to advise the Sprewell camp. Tellem: "[T]he NBA has a serious fairness problem. The penalty imposed on Latrell is outrageous in my opinion, and it exceeds all bounds of any precedent ever in the history of sports. And they did this ... ignoring his due process rights." Tellem, asked by George Will if the NBA had a "separate agenda" with the suspension: "[W]ith the league it is clear that we are heading into a summer where there could be a reopening of the labor agreement by the commissioner, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are trying to assert all power everywhere to show their strength before they go into the labor negotiations" (ABC, 12/7). HUNTER TALKS: On "Meet the Press," NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter spoke to NBC's Tim Russert. Asked if this was a race issue, Hunter said, "I don't think that's the issue at all. ... [Y]ou've got a league that's predominately black, and you've got an administration that's predominately white. So I think if there are individuals who wish to read the race card or race issue into it, they can do that. But I haven't found any evidence of that." Hunter, on the suspension: "[T]here's a public outcry, at least a concern of the public, that things are sort of getting out of control, and I think the league had to demonstrate that, one, they are in control. But more importantly, I think that the league is posturing, because there's a strong possibility that the current [CBA] is going to be blown up." Asked if he was concerned about his players' behavior, Hunter said, "Well, I'm concerned about the behavior of my players, but I think that the acts of a few are reflective of the same kinds of things that we see in society." Russert also questioned Hunter on the NBPA's position on the league's drug policy (NBC, 12/7). ONE-ON-ONE: Hunter, on Stern: "He tends in many instances to play to the public. I think that he was driven to take the action that he has taken, simply because of the response of the media" ("This Week in the NBA," CNN, 12/7). OP-ED: NBPA VP Charles Smith wrote an op-ed in Sunday's N.Y. DAILY NEWS under the header, "Standing Up For Latrell." He argued that the Sprewell matter could have been better dealt with had the Warriors resolved the issue themselves, "but once the league got involved, the stakes were raised, the PR machine was cranked up and the muscles were flexed." Smith noted the public now looks at Sprewell as "a thug," and added, "Maybe he doesn't have the corporate look, and maybe the NBA would have him shave and cut his braids, but a thug? ... The league has even used Latrell in marketing things toward children and communities. If he's such a bad guy, why would they do that?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/8).