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STERN AND JORDAN IN THE MIDDLE OF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS SNIT
Published June 5, 1998
NBA Commissioner David Stern "stopped short of calling them unpatriotic, but he did question the wisdom of players who are considering boycotting this summer's world championships in Athens," according to Mike Wise of the N.Y. TIMES. Stern: "If the individual players decide to trash their country, that's going to be their decision." Stern's comments earned a response from Michael Jordan, who said he would support a boycott of the games in the case of a lockout in "a heartbeat." Jordan: "If you're going to try to handcuff one side, we have to retaliate." NBA Deputy Commissioner and USA Basketball President Russ Granik "warned that such a boycott could influence" the U.S.' chances of automatically qualifying for the 2000 Olympics. He said the team may be forced to play in a qualifying tournament which would take place during the '99-2000 NBA season. But NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said he was looking into whether the U.S. team could receive a bye since it won the '96 gold medal. Hunter said "he was mindful of the players possibly being betrayed as unpatriotic if they boycotted the games." Wise: "Because players signed contracts with USA Basketball, Stern is mostly wringing his hands when it comes to the league's involvement." But Hunter said, "We could argue we think USA Basketball is the alter ego" of the NBA (N.Y. TIMES, 6/5). In Miami, Steve Wyche adds that Stern "tried to distance the NBA from USA Basketball" and "seemed to be putting pressure on the players" who have already committed to the event. He also said that if the players do boycott, "many of their individual sponsors ... may not be pleased" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/5). Stern: "What USA Basketball is going to do is not my problem, nor my owners' problem" (USA TODAY, 6/5). WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE? In Houston, Eddie Sefko notes a source saying that USA Basketball will send letters to players in "about" 10 days asking them of their intentions. If the NBA players do not participate, USA Basketball "will scramble to find an alternate team" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/5). In Toronto, Craig Daniels writes the World Championships have "become a hostage to the looming collective bargaining war" (TORONTO SUN, 6/5). NOT THE BATTLE YOU WANT? In Minneapolis, Steve Aschburner writes that Jordan and Stern, the "two most powerful men in the NBA ... squared off" over the World Championships issue (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/5). In L.A., Mark Heisler writes that Stern "found himself in a spat with his star of stars" (L.A. TIMES, 6/5).