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  • AFTER THE MISTAKE BY THE LAKE, CLEVELAND GETS EXPANSION TEAM

              When NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced last
         evening that the new Browns franchise will enter the league
         in '99 as an expansion team, the decision "caught many
         attending the league meetings by surprise," according to
         Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER.  It "followed
         roughly one hour of discussion on the subject" by team
         owners and "concluded a down-and-up day that began with
         Cleveland officials fearing a delay."  Speculation had the
         league "unprepared to commit to expansion this week," but
         the owners "retreated to their meeting room, and everything
         seemed to change."  Finally, "no vote was taken, but no
         owner dissented" on the expansion decision.  Tagliabue
         credited Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson for "leading the
         discussion on expanding and swaying owners."  Steelers
         President Dan Rooney said Ravens Owner Art Modell also
         "played a prominent role."  Grossi notes "two other
         surprises" in the announcement: The Browns' debut will come
         at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton against the
         Cowboys in August of '99; and Joe Mack, former Assistant GM
         of the Panthers, will be the Browns' Player Personnel
         Director (Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER, 3/24).  While no expansion
         fee has been finalized, some NFL owners "have already"
         floated a $350-$500M fee (Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER, 3/24).
              BURIED LEGACY: In Akron, David Adams writes the
         expansion decision ends "the chance of Cleveland getting a
         relocated team" and also "helps bury the painful legacy left
         behind by the abrupt 1995 decision by Art Modell to move his
         team to Baltimore."  Modell: "I was one of the people who
         wanted to get this done" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/24).
              WHO WILL BE 32? Tagliabue said that the owners will
         hold talks today concerning the next round of expansion,
         mentioning L.A., Houston and Toronto as cities vying to be
         the 32nd team.  In Toronto, Mike Zeisberger says Toronto's
         inclusion "caught everyone ... off-guard" as its chances
         "never had been put forward in this manner by Tagliabue"
         (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).  In Houston, John Williams calls the
         decision "good news" for that city's bid, as had the league
         moved an existing team to Cleveland, "it was possible that
         league owners would not expand at all," as it would mean
         sharing TV revenues (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24). Saints Owner
         Tom Benson, on future expansion: "Oh, man.  You're looking
         at a few more years for those teams" (USA TODAY, 3/24).
    
    

    Print | Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Leagues and Governing Bodies, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • KICKING IT INTO GEAR; THIRD MLS SEASON UNDERWAY

              MLS had a full schedule of games over the weekend as
         its third season opened league-wide.  An announced crowd of
         36,281 attended the Clash-Galaxy game at the Rose Bowl, top
         among the league's weekend gate (THE DAILY).  A crowd of
         18,108 attended DC United's home opener Saturday night
         against the Wizards at RFK Stadium.  In DC, Steven Goff
         reported that "miserable weather certainly was a factor" in
         the team's smallest opening night crowd in its three-year
         history, and that it was "apparent that many fans from the
         Latin American community, angered by the trade of Salvadoran
         star Raul Diaz Arce, did not show."  DC United drew 35,0032
         for their home opener in '96 and 28,749 last season
         (WASHINGTON POST, 3/23).  The Fusion drew 14,653 Saturday
         night at Lockhart Stadium for their game versus the Fire. It
         was the Fire's inaugural MLS game (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/22). 
         In Ft. Lauderdale, Michael Mayo said that the Fusion's
         "novelty factor has faded" in its second game, and that some
         of the announced crowd was "lured by a Ziggy Marley concert
         after the game" (SUN-SENTINEL, 3/22).  In Tampa, the Mutiny
         drew 16,221 for their opener against the Crew at Houlihan's
         Stadium (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/22).  The Burn drew 11,103 against
         the Rapids at the Cotton Bowl (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/22).  
              MLS FACES TESTS: In N.Y., George Vecsey profiled MLS
         Commissioner Doug Logan, and wrote Logan is "talking up the
         concept of his league's being No. 4 1/2 among major sports. 
         He would like his league to feel like the sport of the
         people."  Vecsey: "We could use one of those, what with the
         four established leagues rapidly becoming dominated by
         conglomerations, aiming at corporate clients."  Logan: "The
         biggest piece of garbage in American sports is the luxury
         box, with it couches faced away from the field, facing a
         huge color television set, with everybody eating sushi." 
         Logan said MLS's "four separate groups" of fans include the
         purists, kids who play soccer, Hispanics and the general
         sports fan, "the guy who reads his newspaper back to front,
         the baseball fan who is tired of the players.  That's our
         largest work in progress" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22).     
    
    

    Print | Tags: AEG, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, DC United, FC Dallas, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS
  • NBA OWNERS REOPEN CBA: STERN WANTS A SYSTEM WHICH "WORKS"

              NBA owners voted 27-2 yesterday to reopen their CBA
         with the players and "the next three-and-a-half months will
         determine if this decision results in a civilized duel or
         labor Armageddon," according to David Moore of the DALLAS
         MORNING NEWS.  The CBA, which had three years remaining, now
         expires June 30.   After the vote, NBA Commissioner David
         Stern "chose his words carefully, repeatedly refusing to say
         if the owners would impose a lockout if the two sides can't
         find common a ground before the contract expires."  Stern:
         "We don't want to speculate."  But he did talk of a
         "threshold of pain" that had been put upon the owners in the
         current deal and said "no fair-minded person" could say the
         system is working.  Stern: "Rather than focus on specific
         exceptions, what we'd like to do is say to the players,
         'let's agree on a fair split and work with us.  Whatever we
         promise you will get paid, no less and no more.'"   Moore:
         "This means that owners will seek a hard cap to replace the
         soft cap that now exists. ... The owners focus is to find a
         way to bring salaries, which are escalating at 14 to 15
         percent, in line with the nine to 10 percent growth in
         league revenues."  The NBA and NBPA are schedule to meet on
         or about April 1 (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/24).  Stern: "It's
         our view that we're close to a system that works, but we
         didn't quite hit it this last time" (THE DAILY).  In
         Orlando, Tim Povtak speculates that the Heat and Lakers were
         the two dissenting votes (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/24).
              RESPONSE: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, in a statement:
         "It is unfortunate the owners have chosen to forfeit three
         years of guaranteed labor peace at a time when the industry
         is so obviously healthy. ... Nonetheless, we are prepared to
         negotiate with the understanding that every facet of the
         [CBA] is open for discussion" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).   
              ADD IT UP: Speaking in a conference call, NBA Deputy
         Commissioner Russ Granik said players will receive about
         $995M, or 57.2%, of the league's projected $1.783B in
         basketball-related income (BRI) this season.  That is $160M
         more than the percentage on which "the league's ceiling on
         player payroll, or salary cap, is calculated."  The league
         is "obligated to pay" 48.04% of BRI, or $835M this season. 
         The owners can re-open if the total exceeds 51.8%, or around
         $900M (Mark Asher, WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).  Hunter "disputes
         some of the percentages tossed around by the league," saying
         his figures show 55% of BRI will go to player salaries.  He
         also pointed to money the owners receive that is excluded
         from BRI -- naming rights, signage, team merchandising and a
         percentage of luxury suite revenue -- "in questioning any
         economic hardship the league claims."  But he did call the
         idea of bringing salaries in line with revenues a "prudent
         approach" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/24).  Granik said each
         team will average $23M per year for the next four years of
         the current TV deal and gave the example of the T-Wolves
         paying $21M per year to Kevin Garnett: "[E]ssentially you've
         given away all your network television revenue.  Obviously
         you have other sources of income, but on a long term basis,
         that's not a healthy situation (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).  USA
         TODAY's David DuPree reports that during a work stoppage,
         NBC and Turner would "make rights fee payments for as long
         as a year.  They'd get reduced payments" in the final year
         of the deal (USA TODAY, 3/25).
              DRAFT DODGERS? In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that with "no
         idea of how the current rookie salary scale will be
         affected, some of the nation's top college underclassmen
         might decide to remain in school" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). Stern:
         "I think you can speculate that if you're an undergraduate
         thinking about applying, you might have some second thoughts
         if you don't like uncertainty" (THE DAILY).
              REAX: In Philadelphia, Stephen Smith writes the vote
         "could lead to a lockout this summer."  He adds that front-
         office officials from each NBA team were instructed not to
         discuss the labor matter publicly and threatened with an
         "automatic" $1M fine (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/24).  In
         N.Y., Stefan Fatsis calls the move "risky" for a league
         "that has never lost a game to a work stoppage" (WALL STREET
         JOURNAL, 3/24).  In Milwaukee, D. Orlando Ledbetter takes an
         extensive look at the league's labor woes and writes the
         vote is the "first shot in what promises to be a titanic
         labor battle."  Ledbetter adds said that Hunter "figures to
         be more formidable opponent" than former NBPA Exec Dir Simon
         Gourdine.  Agent Charles Tucker: "They can't mess it up any
         worse than what Gourdine and his team did.  That was a
         complete sellout" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/24).  In
         Seattle, Steve Kelly wrote under the header, "Image-Poor NBA
         Faces Ugly Offseason," and added that one "can't hide the
         fact the NBA is in trouble" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/23). 
              PLAYER AND COACHES REAX: Pistons Player Rep Jerome
         Williams: "Our major concern would be them putting a hard
         cap on players' salaries" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/24).  The
         Rockets' Eddie Johnson: "It's going to be bad because I
         don't think they realize how strong the union is now"
         (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24).  Mavs GM/coach Don Nelson: "We've
         made plans for a busy off-season, but it looks like we'll
         have to trash them" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/24).  
              RAPTORS SALE UPDATE: The league's ownership committee
         recommended that the league approve the Raptors sale to
         Maple Leaf Gardens.  A vote will take place by fax this week
         and approval "should take place without any problems"
         (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).  But David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL
         said the purchase will be delayed "at least another month"
         until owners meet April 21 in New York (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/24).
     
    

    Print | Tags: Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, NBC, News Corp./Fox, Palace Sports & Entertainment, Toronto Raptors
  • NFL EXTENDS CBA DEAL; TAGLIABUE THE LEAGUE'S $5 MILLION MAN?

              NFL owners ratified an extension of the CBA through the
         year 2003, but after a "passionate speech" by Giants co-
         Owner Wellington Mara, "things were much closer than
         expected," according to Mike Freeman of the N.Y. TIMES. 
         Although the final vote was 28-1, with Raiders Owner Al
         Davis abstaining, the situation "was much tighter -- and
         dramatic -- than was publicly made known."  Mara is against
         a provision guaranteeing contracts for certain players in
         the new deal, and Freeman writes, "After what one owner
         described as an incredible speech by Mara, an unofficial
         poll was taken" and the measure was stuck at 22 votes, one
         short of the required 23 for passage.  Freeman: "But after
         some rallying by supporters of the extension, the official
         vote was taken, and at that point a small number of owners
         changed their vote" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).  Eagles Owner
         Jeffrey Lurie said that while "about" ten owners were
         against the guarantee provision, the majority decided that
         "labor peace and other aspects of the deal outweighed that
         one issue" (Phil Sheridan, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/24).
              GET-TOUGH POLICY: In Milwaukee, Tom Silverstein writes
         that the league also took an "unprecedented measure to
         punish those who can't abide by society's rules" with a
         misconduct policy that gives the league power to suspend
         players who plead guilty to or are convicted of violent
         crimes.  The policy has been in place since last August, but
         was not enforced league-wide.  This policy is fully enacted
         July 1 and gives the commissioner oversight to determine
         punishment for repeat offenders.  Tagliabue: "We want to
         deter the misconduct and one way to deter misconduct is to
         impose discipline" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/24).  The
         measure effects all NFL employees (Ron Borges, BOSTON GLOBE,
         3/24).  Among acts specifically mentioned in the new policy:
         hate crimes, domestic violence, use or threat of physical
         violence and illegal possession or distribution of weapons
         (Ira Miller, S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/24).  USA TODAY's Larry
         Weissman writes the measure takes "bold steps against
         athletes convicted of violent crimes" (USA TODAY, 3/24).  
              FROM TAGS TO RICHES? Owners also voted unanimously to
         give Tagliabue a five-year contract extension to 2005. 
         Tagliabue has been in office since November '89 and had two
         years left on his contract that was reportedly worth about
         $2.5M per year.  No salary figures were released by the
         league, but sources say it will double to "at least" $5M a
         year (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).
              NOTEBOOK: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft was named Chair
         of the Finance Committee for a four-year term (BOSTON GLOBE,
         3/24)....Tagliabue discussed a plan where the league and
         NFLPA would pledge money towards new stadium construction. 
         He said the plan was in the initial stages and called it "a
         complicated subject" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/24). 
    
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, New England Patriots, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles
  • NHLPA VOWS TO MONITOR AGGRESSIVE ACTIONS OF HOCKEY AGENTS

              The NHLPA is "concerned" about a growing trend among
         player agents to recruit 13-and 14-year-old players and "is
         monitoring the situation," according to Alan Adams of the
         TORONTO STAR, in a follow-up to his Sunday feature on hockey
         agents.  The NHLPA's J.P. Barry: "It hasn't been brought up
         to the player reps (who meet in the summer), but we have
         been monitoring and watching the amount of recruitment." 
         Barry added that the union "would impose age restrictions
         and sanctions against agents who broke the rules only if NHL
         players wanted it done" (TORONTO STAR, 3/24).
              NOTES: In Philadelphia, Rich Hoffman writes that an NHL
         owner "salivates over the playoffs.  For some teams, the
         difference between losing money and breaking even is the
         playoffs.  For other teams, the difference between breaking
         even and making a good buck is the playoffs."  Hoffman adds
         that the Flyers "probably" earn $1.5M per home playoff game
         (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/24)....Hawks Owner Bill Wirtz,
         on the league stopping play during the Olympics: "I was
         raised that you think of season-reservation holders first,
         second and third. ... I believe in never demeaning the
         regular season" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/22). 
    
    

    Print | Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Comcast-Spectacor, Leagues and Governing Bodies, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, Time Warner
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