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AL President Dr. Gene Budig fined and suspended five Yankees and Orioles players for their part in the fight Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Orioles P Armando Benitez was suspended for eight games; Yankees P Graeme Lloyd and OF Darryl Strawberry for three games each; and O's P Alan Mills and Yanks P Jeff Nelson for two games each (AL). Benitez and the Yankees players "waived their right to appeal," while O's officials said Mills "will make a decision about whether to appeal later" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21). REAX: In N.Y., Joel Sherman criticizes the length of the suspensions and writes that Budig "continues to have a blind spot for how important perception is in a sport that is constantly losing that battle," adding that it was "par for the course for him not to go the 10 miles from his midtown office to [Yankee] Stadium to be on hand last night" (N.Y. POST, 5/21). On L.I., Shaun Powell: "This wasn't a beanball from Budig, this was a Beanie Baby. ... A month off the bench would have gotten an entire league's attention about the whole notion of beanballs" (NEWSDAY, 5/21). Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner, on Benitez's eight-game suspension: "A month's suspension should have been the least he should have gotten" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/21). In N.Y., Dave Anderson writes that as MLB "is still searching for a commissioner, it needs someone to rule on fines and suspensions in both leagues instead" of the league presidents (N.Y. TIMES, 5/21). Also in N.Y., John Harper credit Budig's ruling, calling it "the first properly severe suspension that Budig has handed down" (DAILY NEWS, 5/21). LEAVING THE BENCH: MLBPA Associate General Counsel Gene Orza, on the suggestion that leaving the dugout/bullpen be an automatic suspension: "It can't be in our sport because there's only one player on the field against nine" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/21). On ESPN SportsZone, Rob Neyer agrees with the dugout aspect, but writes that what is realistic "is a rule barring anyone from leaving the bullpen" (SportsZone, 5/21).
At the NFL owners meetings in FL, "most members" of the NFL Coaches Association (NFLCA) "quietly took part in a protest" before a coaching symposium was set to begin, according to Mike Freeman of the N.Y. TIMES. The group of "about" 50 to 60 coaches, "upset with issues they say include race and age discrimination, as well as pension plan issues, staged a non-confrontational protest that could signal future labor unrest." The members entered the symposium 15 minutes late on Wednesday morning "to show the league that coaches, particularly assistants, are unified and prepared to take on the league." Among the coaches were Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes and former Raiders head coach Art Shell. Also present was NFLCA Founder William Wallen, who said that 94% of the NFL's assistants are association members. But NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the protest "bordered on silliness because we're well aware of their issues." Tagliabue: "We've been talking to them; more than talking to them, we've changed a number of policies." He cited changes in the league's health insurance plan (N.Y. TIMES, 5/21). In DC, Leonard Shapiro writes that the NFLCA members now face "a more important question: What next?" Sources say the NFLCA "will not register as a union, but that a class-action lawsuit charging the NFL with age and race discrimination is being considered." While coaches acknowledged the health insurance changes, they said other issues "have not been addressed" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21). OTHER LEAGUE NOTES: NFL owners adopted a resolution to allow NFL teams to own AFL teams within their own markets. ...Kansas City's proposal to be considered to host the 40th Super Bowl in 2006 was rejected (USA TODAY, 5/21)....NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw said the league should make the new Browns franchise competitive as quickly as it can: "We are not going to punish an expansion team for being an expansion team. It's not fair to the players, it's not fair to the city, it's not fair to the new owners, and it's not fair to the league" (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/21). Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson: "We'll resolve it in a way that will give them a fair chance to compete. Ours worked well" (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/21)....Of the 52,000 PSLs sold for the new Browns franchise, about 10,000 are left, most of which cost $250 or $500 (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/21)....In San Jose, Sam Farmer writes that during the meetings, NFL owners "tiptoed oh so close to the issues troubling the 49ers, yet never treading on that delicate ground." Tagliabue, on the fate of the team's $525M stadium/mall complex: "I really haven't spent enough time on it recently to feel comfortable that what I would say would even be accurate" (MERCURY NEWS, 5/21).
Warriors G Latrell Sprewell sued the Warriors and the NBA yesterday, "seeking lost wages and damages stemming from what his lawyers allege as excessive discipline for Sprewell's attack" on coach P.J. Carlesimo last December, according to Jesse Barkin of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges the team and league "made several transgressions -- including a violation of Sprewell's civil rights, racial discrimination and violation of antitrust and unfair business practices statutes at the federal and state level." Sprewell is "seeking as much" as $30M, which takes into account lost wages of $6.4M, plus court costs, legal fees and damages (S.J. MERCURY NEWS, 5/21). The suit also states that the league "demonized Sprewell with a 'massive' public-relations campaign that made him a scapegoat." Also named in the suit were parties "X, Y, and Z," which will be fill-ins for potential defendants added later. Sprewell was not present at the press conference, but is scheduled to make a public comment "in the near future," according to his legal advisor, Robert Gist. In S.F., C.W. Nevius writes that the "breadth and the scope of the suit had many observers raising their eyebrows, but few jumped on the bandwagon." The NBPA issued a statement that it "has not endorsed this lawsuit and has advised Mr. Sprewell's attorney against bringing this action" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/21). In a statement, NBA Exec VP & Chief Legal Officer Jeffrey Mishkin said, "This is a poorly disguised attempt by Mr. Sprewell's new attorneys to reargue claims that have already been rejected and put to rest by the arbitrator" (NBA). TIME FOR WAPNER: SI legal analyst Lester Munson said that Sprewell "is going to go 0-for-4 in this case. His lawyers were sitting there at the press conference talking about punitive damages, treble damages, double jeopardy. They misused almost all of these legal terms. I think the outcome here is going to be that the NBA will not only win this case early but also Latrell Sprewell will end up paying the NBA's attorney's fees for getting this case dismissed" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 5/20). In S.F., C.W. Nevius writes that Sprewell's suit is "about revenge" and has "no chance." Nevius: "This is a long longshot, and a play that a lot of major law firms wouldn't even begin to touch" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/21). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes Sprewell's suit is an example of the "sad tale of a professional sports league dying slowly at the hands of millionaires who are above the law. .... Sprewell isn't killing the NBA's integrity. He's just here to bury it" (DENVER POST, 5/21). In related news, George magazine named Sprewell one its 20 most fascinating men in politics, saying he "finally set the bar for what the American public will tolerate from the modern pro athlete" (N.Y. POST, 5/21). PLAYERS WARNED TO CLEAN UP: In Seattle, Steve Kelley, under the header, "NBA Millionaires Continue To Act Anything But Civil," wrote, "Do the players really think the public is going to be on their side if owners follow through with their threat of a lockout?" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/20).