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Chretien Refutes Reports
Of Loophole Searching
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien's office "dismissed reports that Ottawa is considering a loophole in the legislation to please" Canadian Grand Prix organizers after Formula One Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone said that the event "won't be held next year unless he received a permanent exemption from a law banning cigarette ads and sponsorship," according to the CP. Chretien spokesperson Steven Hogue: "The government has no intention whatsoever of amending the law." Under a proposal from Immigration Minister Denis Coderre, the government "could exempt foreign tobacco companies from the law in exchange for anti-cigarette billboards placed around the track," but Alex Swann, spokesperson for Health Minister Anne McLellan said, "The minister is not considering any changes to the law that would weaken it." The government will "continue working on its original plan, trying to persuade Ecclestone and individual team officials to forgo lucrative tobacco ads" for the race. Justice Minister Martin Cauchon also "threw cold water on speculation the federal government could reimburse teams that suffer a revenue shortfall from tobacco ads." Cauchon: "I don't think the Canadian government will be putting up cash" (CP, 8/26).
Hornish Jr. Joins Penske Amid
Disagreement Inside DEI
RACING: In Toronto, Dean McNulty writes speculation of NASCAR President Mike Helton moving to head Dale Earnhardt Inc. "makes absolute sense." The problem at DEI is that company Owner Teresa Earnhardt, Exec VP Ty Norris and Dir of Motorsports Steve Hmiel "vie for decision making power, and often it ends up that nothing gets done, or when it gets done it gets done badly." Norris had a "handshake deal" with IRL driver Sam Hornish — who yesterday signed with Team Penske — but "failed to pass the deal by Teresa Earnhardt," who "put the kibosh on it — not because she didn't think Hornish was a good driver, but because it was not her idea." Also, NASCAR sources say that Helton "may be the only one capable of patching things up between" Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the team. Earnhardt Jr. is still without a contract beyond this season (TORONTO SUN, 8/26). IRL President Tony George, on Hornish, a 24-year-old American, staying in his series: "I'm pleased by the whole thing. I feel relief right now that Sam is going to stay in the IRL." In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin writes the fact that Hornish is from the U.S. "is likely to help him connect with American fans as the number of foreign-born drivers in both the IRL and CART increases" (INDY STAR, 8/26).
MINORS: ABAlive.com, the Web site of the ABA, notes that the league "intends to launch a 36-game schedule sometime in late November." The league plans to have eight teams, including three in Mexico — Jalisco, Juarez and Tijuana. There will also be a team in Las Vegas run by Jerry Tarkanian, as well as teams in K.C., Long Beach, Trenton and Omaha, pending approval of an arena lease (K.C. STAR, 8/26)....ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers GM & coach Glen Gulutzan said that he does not think that the players strike will "affect the start of the regular season." Gulutzan: "From what I heard they announced the strike date and at some point go back to the bargaining table. ... I am going ahead as business as usual" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/23).
McKay Says NFL Preseason
Format Will Be Revisited
With Falcons QB Mike Vick and Jets QB Chad Pennington suffering serious injuries this preseason, Buccaneers GM and NFL Competition Committee co-Chair Rich McKay "anticipates that after the 2003 season the league likely will take another hard look at the issue of whether there are too many preseason games," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST. McKay: "The last time we discussed it was four years ago, and a survey I sent around to the coaches was firmly in favor of four (preseason games). Will it be talked about again? It will depend on whether the coaches and the owners want us to talk about it. But these issues do get revisited." Shapiro notes the NFL "estimates the preseason generates about $350[M] of its total $4.8[B] annual gross revenues. The bulk of that figure comes from ticket sales and local broadcasting deals." Every NFL team "now includes mandatory purchase of two preseason home games with its regular season ticket package. ... They also sell those games to local television, with teams earning millions more." The Steelers get $1.2M per game, and the price "jumps to about $5[M] for a network game as part of the league's broadcast package." Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson, on the scenario of playing an 18-game regular season if only two preseason games were played: "If the networks had 18 regular season games, that would be more valuable to them. ... I'm sure the league will look at it as it searches for more revenue streams in its next broadcast contract." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir Doug Allen added, "We're willing to look at any model that makes sense. We understand there's a cost attached to it. If you shift two games to the regular season, you're talking about a different equation" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/26).
REAX: In DC, Michael Wilbon: "The NFL Competition Committee ought to be meeting right now to draw up various scenarios, one that doesn't put players at risk and cheat fans by making them pay NFL prices for exhibition scrimmages. ... The beginning of this season has already been reduced by the loss of [Vick and Pennington], two players who bring casual fans to pro football." Ravens LB Ray Lewis: "Do you think right now if the Falcons owner had the chance he'd trade those two games of ticket money for a healthy Michael Vick? Do you think the Jets owner ... would give up the two home games the Jets have this month for a healthy Chad Pennington? ... What industry doesn't cover its biggest asset?" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/26). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes Bengals President Mike Brown "argues that making preseason games part of the season-ticket package is essentially the same marketing strategy newspapers employ in including the classified ads and the comics in the price of the news product." Sullivan: "[Brown's] being disingenuous. One difference between the NFL model and [a newspaper] is that the failure to purchase today's paper does not disqualify a reader from buying tomorrow's. Another is that Beetle Bailey is not held out of some editions because they don't matter as much" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/26).