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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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