SBD/5/Leagues Governing Bodies


          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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