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NATIONAL REAX: TOUGH CRITICISM OF FEERICK'S RATIONALE
Published March 5, 1998
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).