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"Posturing, diplomacy, rhetoric and misconceptions have all dotted the line of negotiations between the NBA and the Players Association since the league imposed a lockout on July 1," according to Mike Kahn of CBS SportsLine. There is "little doubt at the moment" that NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter's "only task is to keep the players galvanized as much as possible, despite saying, 'a hard cap is not acceptable and not negotiable.'" Kahn: "There is more to it than that. He was hired, said one NBA source, 'to kick [NBA Commissioner David Stern's] butt, and unless he continues to act that way, he'll be out of a job.' So Hunter marches on." Stern: "Let's face it, this is different than any other negotiation. They may feel they're giving something back, but the players won't really understand this until they miss a paycheck. Then it will be reality to them." Kahn: "Call it idle rhetoric or posturing, there is a bottom line here, and Stern, who has been negotiating for the NBA for more than 20 years now, knows this time is different. Billy is the Hunter and Stern is the hunted. Unless the present course of action is re-examined by the players, the real losers up front will be the fans and the players, with the real future of the game itself somewhere in between. The billionaire owners will feel the pain last. But we'd better not say it too loudly, the players might hear it" (Mike Kahn, CBS SportsLine, 8/19). GOING ONE ON ONE: In the SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik and NBPA Counsel Jeffrey Kessler are interviewed in a Q&A. Granik: "I think in bargaining everybody is vulnerable. When we start missing games and we're losing receipts and players are losing salaries, ultimately, the economics have an impact." Kessler: "I do not foresee any division arising between the players" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/17 issue). THE BIRD CAGE: USA TODAY's Roscoe Nance examines the Larry Bird Exception, which is "a sacred cow" for the players. But Nance writes, "in reality, only a handful of players are beneficiaries of the Bird Exception each year." Of the NBA's 325 free agents the previous two seasons, "only" 33 have used the Bird rights to re-sign with their teams. Nance: "The popular notion is the Bird Exception only benefits the superstar players. That's not totally accurate. But it does appear to benefit superstar players to a greater degree" (Roscoe Nance, USA TODAY, 8/19). CHARITY OF NIGHT: The NBA and NBPA agreed to cooperate on the N.Y. All-Star Basketball Classic, the "seventh of eight league-sanctioned charity games to be played during the lockout." The game will be held September 9 at MSG and benefit Wheelchair Charities (N.Y. TIMES, 8/19).
So far this season, "it's hard to see how" the chase for MLB's single-season HR record "has given baseball a big bang," according to USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand in a Sports cover story. While MLB attendance is up 10% overall, it is up "only" 1% excluding the two expansion clubs. Hiestand adds that attendance "might not be up at all" without the Beanie Baby giveaways. In addition, MLB's national ratings are "virtually unchanged" from '97. But Logo Athletic VP Eddie White says that Logo's MLB sales are up 12% and adds, "This may be the first year since the 1994 strike that we see an increase in (baseball sales)." In Logo clothing identified with specific players, Ken Griffey Jr. "accounts for half of all sales," with Mark McGwire second at 21% and Sammy Sosa in a single-digit eighth place. Pro Player says that Griffey has been that company's top-seller for three years. This season, Griffey products have produced retail sales of "about" $500,000, with McGwire second at $400,000. But Griffey products last year generated sales of $750,000 (USA TODAY, 8/19). In Chicago, Bernie Lincicome writes that MLB "is blessed" to have the HR record chase. Lincicome: "In a baseball season without compelling pennant races, or any pennant races at all to speak of, there is a daily reason to check in on the game" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/19).
GOLF: GOLFWEEK's "Forecaddie" reports that LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts "would like to see the women's tour conduct five to six stand-alone 'senior' tournaments next season. And word is Eli Lilly & Co., which currently sponsors the Lilly Legends Series for LPGA Tour players 40- and-over ... is thinking about conducting one or two LPGA legends tournaments in '99" (GOLFWEEK, 8/15 issue)....The U.S. Justice Department filed a brief with a federal appeals court Tuesday supporting Casey Martin. In its brief, the Department said that the PGA Tour is covered under the ADA and "must abide by it" (USA TODAY, 8/19). OTHER NOTES: In S.F., Glenn Dickey calls the NFL exhibition season "the biggest boondoggle in sports" and recommends that the league schedule games "in smaller, non- NFL cities, where fans would be thrilled to see any NFL action because they can't see the teams in person during the season" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/19)....In L.A., Dana Haddad profiled pro beach volleyball, and noted that the AVP has reduced its prize money from $4M to $1.3M this year. AVP Interim CEO Harry Usher: "I don't think we'll get back to the $4 million-prize money in the very near future. I don't think it should ever get back to $4 million. ... I think the prize money has been paid when it should not have been paid. This operation has never had money" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/18).
The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) will choose President Alan Rothenberg's successor on Saturday, and the "new boss will be just as obscure as his predecessor eight years ago," according to Steve Davis of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Either Bob Contiguglia or Larry Monaco will be named President during meetings this weekend in Maui. Contiguglia "is a practicing kidney specialist in Denver" who spent six years as U.S. Youth Soccer Association Chair. He lost the '84 U.S. Soccer presidential race. Monaco has been a U.S. Soccer Exec VP for four years, and spent 19 years as a staff attorney for the U.S. House of Representatives. Davis writes, "The candidates' platforms look similar. Both promise to provide more local-level support for the sport's" participants (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/19). Rothenberg's legacy as USSF President is examined by Rodney Sieh of the K.C. STAR, who writes, "Soccer in America has come a long way in eight years. ... [It] has enjoyed unprecedented growth during Rothenberg's reign, thanks to a multimillion surplus from the 1994 World Cup and subsequent sponsorship agreements" (Rodney Sieh, K.C. STAR, 8/19). NEW COO: The USSF named Tom King its COO. King had been GM of the USSF's National Teams Program (USSF).