SBD/Issue 198/Franchises

Judge Amends Free-Agent Restrictions On Hawks, Thrashers

Montgomery County (MD) Circuit Court Judge Eric Johnson on Tuesday put “less stringent conditions” on the Hawks and Thrashers, freeing them to “more fully participate in the signing and trading of players while their ownership dispute plays out in court,” according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. The teams can now “make whatever player transactions they wish as long as their payrolls do not exceed their respective leagues’ salary caps and as long as they do not take on any contracts of longer than four years.” Transactions that “exceed the new conditions would require unanimous approval of the Atlanta Spirit ownership group’s board of managers.” Johnson last week prohibited the teams from acquiring players with contracts of longer than one year, which “drew the concern of both leagues and their player unions because it would have created an unlevel playing field on which the Hawks and Thrashers would not have been able to fully participate in their leagues’ economic systems.” The new order also extended until July 20 the deadline for Atlanta Sprit owners to post the $11.4M bond that is “designed to protect [co-Owner Steve] Belkin against loss during the appeal process” over the team’s ownership dispute. A court document filed yesterday “noted the engagement of a Baltimore lawyer as ‘counsel for the [NBA] and [NHL]’” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/12).

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