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The NFL is "negotiating to buy a stake" in the AFL, according to BLOOMBERG's Curtis Eichelberger. NFL President Neil Austrian "acknowledged" that NFL execs have met with the league, but that the AFL has "yet to bring a proposal to NFL owners." AFL Commissioner David Baker said he hopes to start a "sibling league in Canada in 2000 and a third league in Europe in 2002." The AFL "also hopes to establish regional leagues played in smaller-capacity venues near colleges -- a key market for the development of higher wage- earning NFL fans" (BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS, 6/24).
The ECHL announced that Little Rock, AR, will join the league for the '99-2000 season, becoming the ECHL's 29th member. The club will play at the 16,377-seat Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, presently under construction (ECHL). In Little Rock, George Schroeder reports that AR Sports Entertainment will pay the team's $1.5M franchise fee. Dave Berryman is President & CEO of the group, which includes his brother, Tim. The ECHL team will be Arkansas' second pro hockey franchise, following the WPHL Arkansas GlacierCats, which will play at Barton Coliseum. The Berrymans signed a five-year exclusive deal with the Alltel Arena board in May. Dave Berryman said his group considered both the AHL and IHL, but said the ECHL "offers the most stability and credibility in minor league hockey today." ECHL CEO Rick Adams, on hand for the announcement, said the league plans to expand to 32 teams by '99 (ARK DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE, 6/24).
NBA LABOR: On "SportsCenter," ESPN's David Aldridge reported that NBA owners "are really hammering the union on trying to get limitations on the Larry Bird exemption, and the union is adamant about not having any exceptions and in fact they want more exceptions to the cap. So what I think we have to start with is the league's not giving up the salary cap, the players aren't giving up the Larry Bird exception. If both sides could agree on that as a starting point and work their way in, I think that there would be a much better chance of getting an agreement" (ESPN, 6/23). THIS BUD'S FOR YOU: In Raleigh, a NEWS & OBSERVER editorial titled "Say It Ain't So" comments on Bud Selig being named full-time MLB Commissioner: "The game needs one strong, independent leader who will serve the game and the fans first. More of the same -- particularly if another labor crisis is bungled -- will breed cynicism in all those bleachers and boxes, and ultimately will diminish the importance and popularity of baseball" (NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/24). In S.F., Glenn Dickey writes that Selig's "apparent promotion bothers me," including the "way he campaigned for the job. I'd have respected him if he said he wanted the job, but instead, he's played the reluctant suitor while actively lining up support" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/24). NOTES: On "Page Six" of the N.Y. POST, Richard Johnson writes that as the WNBA opens its second season, "basketball fever appears to be the biggest thing to hit New York's lesbian community since the craze over TV's popular 'Xena: Warrior Princess.'" Out magazine writer Deb Schwartz: "The WNBA won't comment, but it's pretty obvious that there's a huge lesbian following. The games have become a place to meet and greet." WNBA Dir of Corporate Communications Alice McGillion said that the league "had no way of measuring the degree of lesbian support." McGillion: "We don't ask people that question (about their sexual orientation)" (N.Y. POST, 6/24)....USA TODAY continues to chart '97 NFL player salaries with a list of all NFC salaries (USA TODAY, 6/24).