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In Philadelphia, DAILY NEWS sports editor Debbie Woodell contributes an op-ed in the DAILY NEWS and writes, "[S]avvy business people in the basketball business are recognizing the importance of including lesbians among their growing legion of fans." Woodell notes that the ABL Rage other teams in the league have taken out ads in gay publications. Woodell: "Frankly, we're not excited about being courted because it helps us promote some lesbian 'agenda.' No, this is something more simple. It's merely nice to be wanted. So far, I haven't felt that sense of welcome being extended by the more powerful, more deeply pocketed Women's NBA. ... Nor has such hospitality emerged from the college ranks" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/6). FIGURE SKATING: With the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia this week, the sport's popularity is profiled by Jere Longman of the N.Y. TIMES. The rivalry between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took figure skating "from sport to soap opera and [launched] it like a triple axel into popular culture. The result was a larger male audience and television ratings that began to challenge the supremacy of professional football." There were reports, denied by Fox, that the network tried to arrange a Harding-Kerrigan rematch (N.Y. TIMES, 1/6).
The National Lacrosse League (NLL) debuted on January 3 and Sal Maiorana of the Rochester DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE wrote that it is "strong and exciting ... with a solid framework and plenty of room and ability to grow, thus bringing normalcy to a sport that has been on the brink of madness for years." All seven NLL teams are individually owned, with each owner responsible for "all aspects of his team's business," including ticket sales, PR, advertising and marketing, drafting and signing players and arranging transportation and housing. Players are paid anywhere from $350 per game (rookie scale) to as much as $1,100 per game. The NLL has set up an office at Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo led by Commissioner Jon Livsey. There will also be "at least" a game of the week telecast on three separate RSNs -- Empire in NY, HTS in MD and Comcast in Philadelphia, and Maiorana added that ESPN "is interested in televising playoff games" (Rochester DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 1/1). WEB WARE: The NLL debuted its official website at be- lax.com, designed by NY-based Web Technologies (NLL).
While negotiators for the NFL and NFLPA have been working to extend the current CBA which expires in 2002, "several key differences have slowed negotiations dramatically in recent days," according to Mike Freeman of the N.Y. TIMES. Several officials estimated that the chances of reaching a deal in the next few weeks were 50-50. The league "would like" a CBA extension before agreeing to a new TV deal. According to officials, there are "two major sticking points" between the league and its players. The union is looking to "get rid" of the "franchise player" designation which "is typically used by teams on their best player." That player is then guaranteed the average salary of the top five at his position. If a team loses its "franchise player," it receives two No. 1 draft picks as compensation. Freeman: "Some agents and players despise the rule, feeling it limits a player's freedom and salary." But an "even bigger problem" that has come up during negotiations is that the union "wants teams to guarantee the first year of player salaries, which would be unprecedented" in the NFL. Freeman: "There is little chance that ownership will approve either proposal, which has led to the stalemate." Freeman adds that negotiations between the two sides will continue in the coming days (N.Y. TIMES, 1/6).