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  • FEERICK REINSTATES SPREWELL'S CONTRACT AND SHORTENS BAN

              Citing the "issue of fairness," arbitrator John Feerick
         yesterday reduced Latrell Sprewell's one-year ban from the
         NBA by five months and reinstated his contract with the
         Warriors, according to Greg Logan of NEWSDAY.  The
         "sanctions imposed on Sprewell still rank as the most severe
         non-drug-related penalty in NBA history, but Feerick's
         decision underlined the extent to which the lines of
         authority have been blurred in professional sports." 
         Sprewell will be allowed to rejoin the team July 1 and earn
         the final two years of his contract worth $17.3M.  He will
         lose $6.4M by sitting out this season (NEWSDAY, 3/5).
              DETAILS: In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that Feerick ruled
         that the "dual punishment by the team and the league --
         termination of the entire contract by the Warriors and a
         full year's suspension by the league -- was excessive." 
         Feerick also said Sprewell did not violate the "moral
         turpitude" clause in his contract.  Feerick: "I find that a
         penalty of 68 games is commensurate with the severity of the
         misconduct ... and conveys the message that violence in the
         N.B.A. will be dealt with severely but always with due
         regard to principles of fairness."  Feerick also disputed
         the league's claim that Sprewell's second attack on coach
         P.J. Carlesimo during a December practice was premeditated:
         "The record establishes that the anger, if not the rage,
         that erupted in the first incident fed on itself during the
         period he spent alone in the locker room between incidents,
         continuing the fury for the first and connecting the two
         incidents and actually making them one."  Talking with the
         press, NBA Commissioner David Stern called that finding
         "incomprehensible" since Sprewell was given time to shower
         and dress before returning (N.Y. TIMES, 3/5).  Feerick also
         wrote that the "evidence indicates that there is no history
         of both the league and a team imposing discipline from the
         same violent conduct, on or off the court. ... This speaks
         to the issue of fairness, as I see it" ("NBA on TBS," 3/4).
              RESPONSE: In a teleconference with the media, Stern and
         other league execs discussed the ruling. Stern: "You cannot
         choke your boss and hold your job unless you play in the NBA
         and you're subject to arbitrator Feerick's jurisdiction. ...
         The arbitrator is a very charitable man, and he made a very
         charitable decision."  Stern added the ruling "missed the
         opportunity to send a message with respect to the broader
         standard of all the good things that sports leagues can
         stand for.  On that basis, we're more than a little
         disappointed."  Stern, asked if the ruling was a challenge
         to his authority: "The stakes have now been considerably
         raised with respect to what a commissioner will be
         authorized to do in the face of conduct which flies in the
         face of our well established policy."  Deputy Commissioner
         Russ Granik: "I have some concern that fans -- and perhaps
         players -- might unfortunately get that message that no
         matter what you do, your contract can't be terminated" (THE
         DAILY).  Warriors Owner Chris Cohan: "We were shocked at
         this decision" (David Steele, S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/5). 
              FROM THE UNION: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter: "The
         decision is a victory that is shared by Latrell and the
         other 400 members of our union.  It reaffirms the sanctity
         of guaranteed contracts in the NBA" ("NBA on TBS," 3/4).  
    
    

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  • LEAGUE NOTES

              WHO WOULDA THUNK IT? In N.Y., gossip columnist Neal
         Travis writes that CBA Commissioner Steve Patterson's name
         "is now cropping up" in discussions about the MLB
         Commissioner job (N.Y. POST, 3/5)....The NL is "ignoring a
         tradition of naming umpire crew chiefs by seniority, opting
         instead to use a merit system."  NL President Len Coleman:
         "It was not an easy choice, but ultimately someone had to
         make the decision and I did" (USA TODAY, 3/5). 
              OTHER NOTES: U.S. Chief of Mission Paul George, who
         headed the U.S. Olympic delegation, said he will "seriously
         consider" recommending that the USOC impose a "teamwide
         sanction" on the men's hockey team for the damage in the
         Olympic village.  The sanction could include a ban on all 23
         players from future Olympic Games (WASHINGTON POST, 3/5).
         ...U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg is
         interviewed in USA TODAY.  Rothenberg, on the U.S. national
         team heading into the World Cup: "I think the important
         thing is that there probably isn't a game that we play now
         where we are not going to be competitive" (USA TODAY, 3/5). 
    
    

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  • MARTIN'S PRESENCE GIVES NIKE EVENT LUSTER, WIDER AUDIENCE

              Casey Martin's participation in the Nike Tour's Greater
         Austin Open (GAO), which begins today, has tournament
         officials expecting crowds of 20,000 on Saturday and Sunday,
         "based on advance ticket sales, gate projections, and Martin
         making the cut," according to Bill Nichols of the DALLAS
         MORNING NEWS.  Last year, the event drew "about" 10,000 for
         the weekend days.  Martin's rise "has placed him in a
         spotlight that shows no signs of fading."  Defending Greater
         Austin Open champion Eric Booker, on Martin: "He's like a
         Tiger Woods out here" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/5).  On ABC's
         "GMA," Jimmy Roberts reported from the GAO and said there
         were "more reporters and camera crews here" than there were
         for Woods' professional debut two summers ago.  Roberts:
         "So, I think it's safe to say that this has exceeded even
         the hubbub that surrounded Tiger Woods' debut" (ABC, 3/5).
              THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT: In DC, Barker Davis writes
         under the header, "Big Bucks, Endorsement Deals Distance
         Casey Martin From Nike Tour Brethren."  Davis writes that
         Martin has "unintentionally circumvented" pro golf's
         "unspoken order" and that "[t]hanks to his marketability,"
         he has "tasted the game's financial rewards before ever
         reaching its playing pinnacle."  Former PGA Tour player John
         Maginnes: "He's a million-dollar man on a hundred-dollar
         tour.  Damn right, he's different" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/5).
         The Nike Tour is gaining unprecedented exposure this week
         with writers from most of the top markets at the GAO.  In
         DC, Leonard Shapiro profiles the Tour under the header,
         "Under PGA Tour's Wing, Nike Tour Starting To Fly."  With 31
         events on its schedule, the Tour's total purse of $7.4M has 
         "more than" doubled since $3M in '90 (WASHINGTON POST, 3/5).
    
    

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  • NATIONAL REAX: TOUGH CRITICISM OF FEERICK'S RATIONALE

              Reaction was mixed to Feerick's decision.  The
         following is a sampling from national markets:    
              A UNION WIN?  In N.Y., Selena Roberts writes of a
         "general feeling of victory from the union" (N.Y. TIMES,
         3/5).  In San Jose, Jesse Barkin calls it a "decisive
         victory" for Sprewell (MERCURY NEWS, 3/5).  In Dallas, Kevin
         Blackistone calls it, at best, a "Pyrrhic" win for Sprewell
         (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/5).  ESPN's Bob Ley, leading the
         6:30pm ET "SportsCenter," called the decision "a major
         defeat for the NBA office" (ESPN, 3/4).  On Fox Sports Net,
         Lionel Bienvenu: "It's become a players against coaches
         issue, and from today's action, it appears the players have
         the upper hand" (FSN, 3/4).  CNN/SI legal analyst Lester
         Munson: "This is a huge win for the players union."  He adds
         that the "first major" win for Hunter "will produce
         solidarity among the players that has never before been seen
         in the NBA players association" ("CNN/SI," 3/4).  Stern: "We
         won on upholding the vast majority of the suspension. ...
         But clearly, on the reinstatement of his contract, I'm not
         going to sit here claiming any victory. ... Listen, if Billy
         needs a victory, it's okay with me" ("NBA on TBS," 3/4).
              NO WIN: NEWSDAY's Shaun Powell says the decision "gave
         us everything except a winner" (NEWSDAY, 3/5).  Header over
         USA TODAY: "Sprewell Ruling Pleases Almost No One" (3/5). 
              NOT FOND OF FEERICK? In Boston, Bob Ryan criticizes the
         ruling and calls it a "total loss" for the NBA.  He credits
         Stern for his punishment and writes that Feerick "turned out
         to be a classic Bleeding Heart, more concerned about the
         rights of the criminal than the victim" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/5). 
         In N.Y., Ira Berkow writes under the header, "Undoing A
         Reasonable Punishment."  Berkow says Feerick used "odd
         logic" and calls the decision "wrongheaded" (N.Y. TIMES,
         3/5).  Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica writes that Feerick
         "choked," and adds, "Feerick is wrong today and will always
         be wrong about Sprewell" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/5).  USA
         TODAY's Mike Lopresti calls it a "disturbing outcome" and
         writes that Feerick "will be remembered for bending so far
         over for Sprewell and the players union, he looked like Mary
         Lou Retton on the balance beam" (USA TODAY, 3/5).   Header
         on the N.Y. POST back page: "Whata Choke! Arbitrator Lets
         Spree Get Off Easy."  Inside, Wallace Matthews calls the
         ruling "incomprehensible" and "the first step in the Selig-
         ization of the NBA, which is well on its way to becoming yet
         any other league without a leader" (N.Y. POST, 3/5).  In
         Akron, Terry Pluto writes that "morality took yet another
         step backward" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/5).  On ESPN
         SportsZone, Art Spander writes, "What is John Feerick
         thinking?" (ESPN SportsZone, 3/5).  In Chicago, Sam Smith
         writes the league was "stunned" by the ruling as Stern spoke
         "almost in a whisper during a national teleconference"
         (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/5).  On "Moneyline," CNN's Jan Hopkins
         called the decision a "stunning setback for the NBA."  CNN's
         Allan Dodds Frank: "The Sprewell case went far beyond a
         dispute over workplace violence, becoming a symbol of the
         NBA's efforts to stand up to rogue players" ("Moneyline,"
         CNN, 3/5).  In Washington, Michael Wilbon calls the ruling
         "a little strange in some areas, totally contradictory in
         others."  But he adds the "big issue is whether the NBA is
         going to be able to do anything about the young, disruptive
         players who, with the encouragement of their agents, have no
         agenda other than compiling their own wealth, even at the
         expense of the league's success" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/5).
         MSNBC's Brian Williams: "There is proof tonight, for some,
         that you can do just about anything in the NBA and get away
         with it" (MSNBC, 3/4).  TNT's Cheryl Miller: "Nothing
         surprises me anymore when it concerns the NBA" (TBS, 3/4).
              LOOKING AHEAD: In S.F., David Steele writes if NBA
         owners open up the CBA this summer, the league and owners
         will "bring up what appears to be a very narrow
         interpretation of the conduct clause by which the Warriors
         terminated Sprewell's contract" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/5).
         ESPN's David Aldridge: "I think in the [CBA], they're going
         to take a long, hard look at Article 16 (the conduct clause)
         of the players' contract" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/4).
              SOCIETAL ISSUES: In K.C., Mike Vaccaro: "Mostly, what
         Feerick did was widen the chasm between athletes and the
         fans who follow them" (K.C. STAR, 3/5).  A S.F. CHRONICLE
         editorial bemoans the ruling, adding that basketball "is
         fast losing its reputation as a sport where rules and fair
         play count" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/5).  In Milwaukee, Dale
         Hoffman writes that "it's hard to imagine [Feerick's]
         decision not changing the relationship between coaches and
         players" (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/5).  NBC's Tom Brokaw: "Now, a
         story that goes well beyond sports, a major victory tonight
         for Latrell Sprewell."  NBC's George Lewis: "On talk radio
         [Wednesday], there was an avalanche of negative comments
         about Sprewell."  Noting that Stern called the ruling
         "charitable," Lewis said, "But a lot of critics don't think
         Latrell Sprewell is deserving of charity and that this sends
         the wrong message about violence" (NBC, 3/4).  ABC and CBS
         nightly news shows also mentioned the decision (THE DAILY). 
    
    

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  • THE STERN WORD: WHAT DOES RULING MEAN TO NBA'S TOP BOSS?

              The impact of Feerick's ruling on the power of NBA
         Commissioner David Stern is widely debated today.
               STERN'S POWER CURBED? In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence calls
         the ruling an "enormous setback to the current law-and-order
         crackdown engineered by Stern" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/5).  In
         Toronto, Chris Young writes that Stern's "wings have been
         clipped considerably" (TORONTO STAR, 3/5).  In Charlotte,
         Rick Bonnell calls Feerick's conclusion "nutty" and adds
         that Stern now "has no bite left to support his bark"
         (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/5).  In San Jose, Bud Geracie
         "grudgingly" approves of Feerick's decision and writes the
         NBA "lost in that the authority of its commissioner was
         undercut.  But it could have been so much worse" (MERCURY
         NEWS, 3/5).  In Ft. Worth, Kevin Lyons writes that the
         ruling "saps, if just a wee bit, some of" Stern's power
         (STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/5).  In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton calls
         the decision "right on the money" and said Stern was
         "thinking more about the NBA's image than fairness" when he
         levied the punishment last December.  But Bruton adds: "Even
         though Feerick ruled in Sprewell's favor, Stern still got
         his public relations spin across" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER,
         3/5).  Also in Philadelphia, Bill Conlin writes that while
         Feerick "turned the NBA's code of conduct into a funnybook
         for fools," the finding "points a glowing finger at the
         failure" of Stern to give Sprewell "anything resembling the
         due process" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/5).  On CNN/SI.com,
         Phil Taylor writes Sprewell should "thank the league for
         handling his case so poorly."  Taylor: "The league has been
         too lenient in the past to get away with throwing the book
         at Sprewell now.  And that's why Stern has suffered such a
         major blow to his authority" (CNN/SI).  In AZ, Dan Bickley
         blames Stern, who "tried to make a sweeping statement and
         overstepped his boundaries.  ... [H]e gave the arbitrator
         all the ammunition he needed" (AZ REPUBLIC, 3/5).  In
         Chicago, Jay Mariotti says Stern "overstepped his bounds"
         with the penalty and was "too stern" (SUN-TIMES, 3/5).
              OR IS STERN'S POWER ENHANCED? In Philadelphia, Sam
         Donnellon writes that the ruling "mostly supported Stern,
         and he will no doubt use it this summer.  He will also use
         it ... as a starting point for future transgressions of this
         magnitude" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/5).  In Toronto,
         Craig Daniels, calls the decision "fuzzy," but "essentially
         sound," and writes that Stern's authority "not only has been
         upheld, it might have been strengthened" (TORONTO SUN, 3/5). 
         In Dallas, Randy Galloway writes the ruling "stripped the
         teams of power ... but strengthened the power of a
         commissioner" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/5). 
    
    

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