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SPREE TO BE YOU & ME: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, asked if he could have helped Latrell Sprewell better prepare for his recent media appearances: "I would have probably -- hopefully -- better prepared him. I would have probably been a little more selective in terms of what shows I permitted him to go on." The tour was scheduled by Sprewell's agent, Arm Tellem. Hunter, meanwhile, "distanced himself -- and the union -- from the interviews." Hunter: "It probably doesn't play too well with some people" (BLOOMBERG/PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/11)....Sprewell, on whether he feels a weight has been lifted from him since the ruling: "I'm starting to feel that as I can get out and tell people what really happened" ("Inside the NBA," TNT, 3/10). NOTES: Pilot Pen CEO Mike Davies is "seeking a four- or five-year lease with an option for another five years" from the USTA to bring the U.S. Women's Hardcourt Championship to New Haven, CT. In Hartford, Greg Garber reports that if a deal is reached, Davies' organization "is prepared to piggyback local advertising for the women's event" with the men's Pilot Pen tournament (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/11)....Also in Hartford, Jerry Trecker previews the upcoming MLS season, and writes that the league "faces a continuing battle to gain acceptance beyond the already committed fans." Trecker reports that the '98 season will open with "some positives," including two new teams and a "better television package," which includes games on ABC, ESPN, Univision and regional sports nets. Trecker adds that "sponsor interest remains high, too, suggesting the business world has more confidence in" the sport, but that "in the meantime, a low profile is still the operative mode for MLS" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/11).
"Many of the [NBA's] referees say they think the IRS is mounting another charge at several of them," according to Dwight Jaynes of the Portland OREGONIAN. One NBA ref: "There are still about 25 of us under investigation, and we think another 15 could be indicted by April 15." But Jaynes wrote that "there is an assertion by some that the actual amount of taxes owed is not enough to merit the heat of this investigation." One ref said George Tolliver, a former ref indicted last year, "owed tax of about $10,000. But he lost his job and his ability to repay the debt. ... People owe much more in taxes than that all the time and don't get prosecuted." Two refs also told Jaynes that the NBA "had a part" in the investigation and added, "They knew what we were doing and, in fact, used it against us in collective bargaining. It was a way for them to pay us more money without having to pay various payroll taxes on that money. Now they are doing nothing to help us." But Jaynes wrote of "speculation" that NBA Commissioner David Stern is waiting for the investigation to end and "then will contemplate some kind of amnesty program." NBA Senior VP Rod Thorn: "David has said publicly this isn't necessarily a death sentence. But he hasn't said it isn't either" (OREGONIAN, 3/10). THE OTHER REF: NEW YORK's Barbara Campbell profiles Sandra Ortiz-Del Valle, who filed a $1M gender discrimination suit against the NBA, "which declined to hire her as a ref despite her seventeen years of experience." NBA League Counsel Jeffrey Mishkin said that Ortiz-Del Valle "did not" meet the NBA's standards. Ortiz-Del Valle has rejected two NBA settlement offers, first $25,000, then $75,000, "in favor of her day in court" (NEW YORK, 3/98).
The Professional Hockey Players' Association (PHPA) and the AHL announced the ratification of a new, four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA, extending through August 31, 2002, was approved by the AHL players. Components of the deal include: a PHPA sponsored 401(k)/ Group RRSP; revised Standard Player's Contract; increased player per diem; increased pension contributions; player benefit program enhancements; and increased minimum salary for players recalled from lesser leagues (PHPA).
The USOC "is not ready to announce specific punishment for the room-trashing episode" involving U.S. hockey players in Nagano, but Joe Lapointe of the N.Y. TIMES writes that the USOC "appears to be moving away from threats, hoping for a settlement in the form of a group apology and a significant payment by team members." The USOC had "threatened possible sanctions" against the entire team for the incident, possibly banning all players from future international competitions. Lapointe: "The new strategy seems to be based, at least in part, on a feeling that the USOC may be on uncertain legal ground trying to punish the hockey team as a whole" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11). In N.Y., Ira Berkow writes under the header "Hockey Team's Stonewalling Is Childlike Behavior." Berkow, in response to Brian Leetch who recently said the threat of a team penalty sounded like "elementary school": "If they act like children, it is only proper that they be treated like children" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11). USOC President Bill Hybl and USOC Exec Dir Dick Schultz will hold a news conference today (USA TODAY, 3/11).