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The Arena Football League (AFL) has signed a letter of intent to purchase the patent, trademark and copyrights associated with the Arena Football Game on a worldwide basis from Gridiron Enterprises, Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The league's purchase of worldwide rights follows last week's announcement that the Orlando Predators had purchased an increased share in the AFL, with proceeds of the sale directed to the purchase price, in part, for the worldwide rights from Gridiron (AFL).
CART has jointed with MI-based Valassis Communications and IL-based Marketing Events to create a FedEx Championships Series-themed FSI to reach more than 40 million homes through national newspapers on July 26. The FSI program is targeted toward female and family demos and will offer consumer package good companies the ability to align with CART. CART Dir of Marketing Jeff Gooding said that first-time program "is part of our broader, integrated marketing plans for 1998." Valassis will publish the consumer inserts and secure distribution while Marketing Events will bring advertisers into the program (CART). JAPANESE IMPORT: CART will race its Budweiser 400 in Montegi, Japan, the first time the series has held a race in that country. In Indianapolis, Bill Koenig wrote that although some "major Japanese" companies are involved in CART -- including Honda, Toyota and Panasonic -- the racing series "sees the potential for more corporate involvement." Koenig: "The hope is having an annual race will get Japanese race fans enthused about the CART series and Japanese companies interested in sponsorships. The timing, however, isn't the best. Japan's economy continues a six-year slump, with no recovery on the horizon" (INDY STAR-NEWS, 3/24). GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS: In Chicago, Herb Gould wrote of CART's expansion where it is "trying to keep pace in a world where NASCAR has been widening the gap as the most popular arm of auto racing." CART has added a street race in Houston for '98 and is "exploring" the possibility of adding a race in Germany to go with its international forays in Japan and Brazil. CART is also targeting Chicago for a Labor Day '99 race (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/26). COVERAGE: ESPN Int'l will air the '98 CART FedEx Championship Series full season schedule on its international networks. ESPN Int'l also has agreements to syndicate the series, which began last weekend, to broadcasters worldwide (ESPN International).
NBA LABOR PAINS: One NBPA "union insider" tells Peter Vecsey of the N.Y. POST, "What incentive do owners have not to lock out players? Players may be better organized for a long fight and show more unity than ever before, but the days are gone forever when you can ask them to sit out half of his guarantee for the good of the next generation. ... The average salary is close to $3 [million], we're talking about losing half before the owners start to feel some pain, too, in lost revenue. There's just too much at risk almost right away for the player and his family" (N.Y. POST, 3/37). SENIOR TOUR HITS 21 EVENTS: The worldwide men's senior tennis tour, sanctioned by the ATP Tour, will begin its second year in '98-99 with 21 events. New events have been added in Minneapolis, Boston, Melbourne and Qatar. In the U.S., the Nuveen Tour will celebrate its fifth anniversary with nine events. In Detroit, the circuit will join with Pistons G Joe Dumars to present the Mentadent Joe Dumars Champions, and for its inaugural event near Boston, the Nuveen Tour will join the WTA Tour for a two-week "Tennis Fest" event at Babson College in Wellesly, MA (ATP Tour).
The "inevitable comeback" of Michael Ovitz is "underway," according to Bruce Orwall of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Ovitz is joining with OH-based Glimcher Realty Trust on a plan to build malls with sports and entertainment themes in areas "such as" Columbus, OH, and Newark, NJ. Ovitz has also put together a group looking to land an NFL team in L.A. with plans to build a stadium adjacent to a Glimcher mall in Carson, CA. Glimcher Chair & CEO Herb Glimcher declined comment on whether he would be involved in the NFL project. Orwell writes that two weeks ago, Ovitz and his partners presented the league with a plan backed by $750M in prospective financing from Bank of America. Previously, Ovitz was in talks to join with investors led by NHL Kings co-Owner Ed Roski to bring an NFL team to the L.A. Coliseum. But "those discussions ended recently." Roski: "I guess he decided he would like to go in his own direction." So Ovitz began working with "entertainment architect" David Rockwell on the Carson site and the two put together a design for a $350M privately financed stadium near the mall complex. Orwell adds that the effort to bring an NFL team back to L.A. "is putting Mr. Ovitz's famed deal- making skills to the test" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/27).
As MLB opens its season on Tuesday, the "gulf between the sport's have and have-not franchises is wider than ever," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Today in MLB, "you have to spend big to win big." Tigers GM Randy Smith: "I don't think you have to spend $60 million or $70 million to win. But it's clear that in order to get into the playoffs, you're going to have to spend, and spend pretty big." Maske notes that no MLB club had a winning record last year with a player payroll of less than $40M. Acting Commissioner Bud Selig: "There's no sense in deluding one's self. You could see this coming five to eight years ago." Selig added, "We just need to improve the system. ... One could make a convincing case here that there's just not enough cost restraint built into the system." Maske lists MLB team player payrolls for the '98 season. The figures use the "payroll-calculation method" used by management's Players Relations Committee. The method includes the salaries of all players on the 40-man roster, bonuses and benefits. For players with multiyear deals, the average annual value of the contract is used. The MLBPA does not include benefits in payroll calculations. Player payrolls of MLB's 30 teams (WASHINGTON POST, 3/27):
TEAM PAYROLLTEAM PAYROLL BALTIMORE$74,303,497 MILWAUKEE$48,753,716 ATLANTA$71,639,725 HOUSTON$48,403,250 BOSTON$71,318,403 CHI. WHITE SOX$45,887,914 N.Y. YANKEES$70,583,730 ANAHEIM$45,479,584 CLEVELAND$66,850,303 ARIZONA$43,565,417 TEXAS$64,154,180 PHILADELPHIA$42,065,084 COLORADO$62,179,513 FLORIDA$40,917,001 CHICAGO CUBS$59,391,084 TAMPA BAY$39,872,584 TORONTO$58,494,370 KANSAS CITY$39,089,251 SEATTLE$58,017,231 DETROIT$37,390,084 LOS ANGELES$57,642,751 MINNESOTA$34,883,022 N.Y. METS$57,378,501 CINCINNATI$32,467,793 ST. LOUIS$56,204,396 OAKLAND$26,646,584 SAN DIEGO$52,292,624 PITTSBURGH$24,407,251 SAN FRANCISCO$50,318,200 MONTREAL$16,031,584
MORE MLB NOTES: In Boston, the GLOBE features an extensive series on MLB's search for talent in international markets, including Asia, Australia, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Red Sox GM Dan Duquette: "It's hard finding talent in the States because kids just aren't playing enough baseball. You have to explore every avenue for talent, and the international market is now a critical avenue" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/27)....USA TODAY's BASEBALL WEEKLY editors interview MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr and MLB COO Paul Beeston in the current issue. Beeston, on attracting more fans of color: "We're trying to do it. ... You can't say we're not advertising. Can't say we're not out there." Fehr, on the image of the players: "I think since the strike ended there has been a sustained effort to reach out, to do more, to incrementaly rehabilitate the image of the players and the image of the game" (BASEBALL WEEKLY, 3/25 issue).