With House hearings on baseball's anti-trust exemption set for Thursday, more editorialists are using the issue as a way to sound their disapproval over the cancellation of the season, playoff and World Series. TAKING EXEMPTION TO THE RULE: BUSINESS WEEK: "With million-dolar salaries and billion-dollar television deals, the idea that baseball is not a business is simply ludicrous. ... With the 1994 season called on account of greed, the message is clear: Yank the antitrust exemption and let baseball get back to its business -- entertaining the fans" (BUSINESS WEEK, 9/26). The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: "Baseball deserves no special protection from the consequences of its stupidity arrogance and greed" (INQUIRER, 9/18). The ATLANTA CONSTITUTION: "The American public is not helpless in this mess. Through their elected representatives, they have the ability to withdraw the anti-trust exemption that allows the baseball owners to act as they have" (CONSTITUTION, 9/18). USA TODAY: "Without the antitrust exemption, there would be no baseball strike. If Congress repeals the exemption, the strike will end. ... No logical or legal reason exists why 28 businesses should enjoy antitrust immunity" (USA TODAY, 9/19). WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEK: Rep. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a former player, has intorduced a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Major Owens (D-NY) and Mike Synar (D-OK) that would give the players "the right to seek an injunction under anti-trust laws if owners were to unilaterally impose working conditions." The hearings, to be held before the House Judiciary Commitee, will include testimony from Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr, Royals Player Rep David Cone, and possibly others. While House Judiciary Committee Chair Jack Brooks (D-TX) hasn't taken a position, he is considered an exemption foe (Colin Miner, N.Y. POST, 9/17). Fehr: "There had been a belief in Washington that things will work out, that the owners can't be that arrogant. Now that they know they were wrong, maybe there will be action" (N.Y. POST, 9/19). David Rosenbuam writes, "Chances are slight that generations of inertia can be overcome in the month remaining in this session of Congress" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/18). In BUSINESS WEEK, Aaron Bernstein: "Although the owners have won this battle in the past, public anger over another lost season could stiffen congressional attitudes" (BUSINESS WEEK, 9/26 issue).
Leagues Governing Bodies
When Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "waves his magic wand today, tomorrow or Wednesday," he will "cast the future of the game -- short- and long-term -- into a sea of doubt" (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 9/12). "Baseball has had seven previous work stoppages but never has known the kind of chaos that will ensue if it enters the off-season" without an agreement (Phil Rogers, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). POINT OF NO RETURN: Weekend reports in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE had Selig set to make the "formal announcement" today that he was calling off the rest of the season, the playoffs and the World Series (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/10). But MLB denies that any decision has been made (USA TODAY, 9/12). Bob Costas said, while the strike "may not be fatal" to the game, there is already "long-term damage": "I don't think that baseball will ever be, in our lifetimes, what it once was" ("Meet the Press," NBC, 9/11). CENTER OF THE STORM: ESPN's Peter Gammons: "The [MLBPA] now believes that Bud is far more powerful than they ever thought. ... Now the question is, is Bud going to be the hero and just close this down and resume the season or is he going to let it go?" ("SportsCenter", 9/10). In Dallas, Phil Rogers writes, "Here he sits, for all intents and purposes willing to become the Man Who Killed the World Series" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/11). Selig: "A lot of people have been taking shots at baseball and me ... but they haven't seen the numbers, they don't understand the problems" ("SportsCenter", 9/11). NBC made a point of showing Selig in attendance at the Green Bay-Miami game in Milwaukee. Selig was interviewed briefly during the 3rd Quarter: "I hope there will be talks tomorrow, but there is nothing planned" (NBC, 9/11). ON THE SAME PAGE? Orioles owner Peter Angelos said he was not in the loop on the decision to reject the players offer, despite Selig's claims that all owners were apprised of the players' position. Orioles Vice Chair Joe Foss said he talked to two other teams who were not contacted either (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 9/10). NOT TOO TORN UP: Smith Barney media analyst John Reidy called the strike a mere "distraction" for ABC and NBC: "You are much better off to be doing your regular season programming. Sure, baseball gets some great ratings, but it doesn't build a schedule" ("Nightly Business Report," PBS, 9/9). In Boston, Jack Craig concurs: "The entertainment divisions of the networks will take over the time periods, allowing them to keep all the revenue in what is currently a booming advertising market" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/11).
According to all reports this morning, Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will cancel the season, including the World Series, sometime this afternoon. ESPN's Jimmy Roberts: "Many of those who have been here in New York to participate in meetings over the last few days packed their bags and headed home." ESPN's Dan Patrick: "Barring a unlikely appearance from a voice of reason, you will hear the voice of doom ... when the Acting Commissioner says, 'thanks for the memories'" ("SportsCenter," 9/13). The season will end "with a news release and a telephone call" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/14). CONFIRMATION: Baseball's owners received a resolution from Selig via fax calling for them to support the decision to cancel the World Series. Selig's resolution blames the MLBPA for "creating a negotiating stalemate," saying the union "has consistently refused to bargain with the clubs concerning a division of industry revenues with the players." The resolution asks for the signatures of the other owners. As of last night, there were questions as to whether Selig would be able to get the "consent" of the Orioles's Peter Angelos, the Dodgers' Peter O'Malley and the Blue Jays' Paul Beeston. But no formal vote is necessary to cancel the season (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 9/14). FEHR PLAY? Selig phoned MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr last night to discuss today's announcement. Fehr: "He wanted me to sanction and agree with him that it was OK and pull down the season. I told him that if he wanted to pull down the World Series, that was Bud Selig's responsibility, not mine" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/14). WHAT ABOUT NEXT SEASON? Braves Player Rep Tom Glavine believes if the World Series is gone, then '95 spring training and Opening Day "are in a lot of trouble, too": "If the postseason wasn't enough incentive to get something done, there's no incentive in the off season" (Tim Tucker, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/14). Red Sox CEO John Harrington said negotiations must continue or the '95 season will be threatened as well: "We really have to reach an agreement by mid- to late- October, because player contract transactions (for 1995) go into full swing in early November. We don't have any time to spend sitting around" (Tom Massarotti, BOSTON HERALD, 9/14). PUBLIC RELATIONS MOVES: Both Fehr and Richard Ravitch appeared on NBC's "Today" show. But the union was "irate" that Selig apparently "shut them out" of an appearance on ABC's "Nightline." Selig was on the show with NBC's Bob Costas and baseball historian David Halberstam. Steve Fehr, Donald's brother and a union official: "We certainly talked to [ABC] and complained about it. At first, we heard they made a deal with Bud that he would come on if that was a condition. They deny that, but in effect it is the same" (Mike Fish, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/14). TUBE TALK: Bob Costas: "The biggest issue is trust. The owners come into these negations with a lot of baggage. The owners had a couple of years to present a coherent plan, but they didn't do it until the 11th hour." Author David Halberstam: "[The owners] sensed that the players had the bad odor of young millionaires, and that they weren't handling it very well and the fans were somewhat holding back, and they used that and they found a resonance there ("Nightline," ABC, 9/13). Royals Player Rep David Cone: "The emotion is building toward anger as we really feel there are a few owners who want to bust the union" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 9/13).
At a league meeting in Toronto, CFL commissioner Larry Smith told owners that he had "solicited TV contract offers from two US carriers." Although they were not identified, Baltimore owner Jim Speros confirmed that neither was CBS. Any TV deal would mean adding up to four more franchises in the U.S. Among the cities mentioned for possible expansion: Memphis, St. Louis, Oakland, Orlando, San Antonio, New York and Los Angeles. New York and L.A. are seen as the big draw for the TV executives (Ken Murray, Baltimore SUN, 9/18).
One owner, speaking on the condition of anonymity: "I guess I was naive, but it wasn't until the last few days that I began to suspect strongly that this really is an effort to break the union." A different owner from a different league: "One of the scariest things is old hard-line owners think they're smelling blood. It's bizarre. It's been so long since ownership stayed intact and stood up, this is an unusual position for them to be in at this stage of a strike. When you think about it unraveling, there's a group thinking that we have them where we want them" (Claire Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 9/11). BLUNT TALK: On the "Sports Reporters," Mike Lupica: "They were out to bust his union. This was not a good faith negotiating. I believe it and I mean it when I compare Selig to the Black Sox. This is the greatest scandal in baseball since 1919" (ESPN, 9/11). WHAT'S IT WORTH? Bill Madden writes, "As empty-headed as the owners have shown themselves to be over the years, it is hard to believe they could be so bull-headed as to destroy their own businesses in hopes of bringing the union to its knees" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/11). Peter Gammons notes all sides, even some MLBPA officials, admit it will be hard to keep some players from crossing picket lines next spring, estimates are that franchise and player worth will be devalued 50%: "That means if Tom Werner and Jackie Autry want to burn at the stake rather than sell their teams for the $85 million and $150 million they're asking, they'd be chucking $40 million and $75 million, respectively, just to see Fehr on his knees" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/11).
The NBA competition committee voted yesterday to shorten the distance of the three pointer. The change will become final with a 2/3 from the NBA Board of Governors in October (Richard Justice, WASHINGTON POST, 9/14). Other suggestions are aimed at curbing game fights and improving scoring opportunities. Raptors GM Isiah Thomas said new foul rules give "the freedom and creativity to play basketball" (Frank Lawlor, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/14). Bryan Burwell notes the players' role in bringing the game "back to its jazzy, aesthetic roots": "Basketball is not supposed to be about rage" (USA TODAY, 9/14). ESPN's Bob Ley: "The rule of baseball seems to be tradition. But this game seems ready to implode, as the NFL and the NBA change the rules of their game to maximize their fan appeal." ESPN's Chris Mortenson noted the positive effect the NFL is experiencing thus far this season after off-season ruile changes: "They juiced up the offense, and there is no question it has had an impact in the first couple of weeks" ("SportsCenter," 9/13).
OAKLAND: The A's, one of the few teams that has not laid off any front-office personnel during the strike, "probably will not drop any employees -- even if the rest of the season is erased." The A's are currently for sale, with an asking price of $85M (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/14). ST. LOUIS: The strike has "inflicted some economic miseries downtown, but riverboat gambling and special events have softened the hit." One restaurant manager, noting the Cardinals poor season: "If there has to be a strike, make it this year" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/14). PHILADELPHIA: Phillies owner Bill Giles, who stands solidly behind the salary cap, was asked to think of the consequences had the strike been in '93 when the Phillies were in the World Series: "I think I would shoot myself. If this was 1993, I might have a different feeling about things" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/14).
CNN, Fox, and NBC's NFL pre-game shows all reported that a strike by NFL officials should be avoided this week via the league's proposal presented this past weekend. The deal offers a 50% pay increase, tripled pensions, and addresses the pension concerns of some retired officials. CNN's Len Pasquarelli says agent Tom Condon, who represents the officials, thinks the offer is a "viable starting point" to take to the official's executive board. Pasquarelli called Condon "guardedly optimistic" ("NFL Preview," CNN, 9/18). Fox's James Brown said "representatives for NFL officials will recommend that they accept the offer on the table" ("NFL Sunday," Fox, 9/18). On "NFL Live," NBC's Will McDonough: "Both sides feel that a deal could be agreed on by mid-week" ("NFL Live," NBC, 9/18). THE NUMBERS: Under the proposal, a 20-year official would receive $36,000 in pension benefits, $5,000 a game in '95 and $80,000 in severance pay (USA TODAY, 9/19).
In Philadelphia, Dave Caldwell reports on the latest re- alignment plan submitted by Steelers president Dan Rooney (PHILA. INQUIRER, 9/11). Teams in CAPS change divisions. The Seahawks and Buccaneers would change conferences. NFC EAST NFC CENT NFC WEST AFC EAST AFC CENT AFC WEST Eagles Bears CARDINALS Colts BILLS Broncos FALCONS Lions Rams Dolphins Panthers OILERS Cowboys Packers VIKINGS Patriots Bengals Chiefs Giants Jaguars 49ers Jets Browns Raiders Redskins SAINTS SEAHAWKS BUCS Steelers Chargers WILL IT HAPPEN? Caldwell notes that the league has come up with a $65M revenue pool to compensate those teams that stand to lose money due to realignment. The league will study more plans at a meeting scheduled for September 28-29. If at least 21 owners can agree on two or three plans, realignment could be approved at the NFL fall meeting in Chicago, November 1-2 (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/11). In Chicago, Richard Rothschild notes, the Cowboys "moved to the East when they needed help in making a name for themselves. Now that the NFL can use some assistance with realignment, football's most publicized franchise should graciously move to its rightful place in the West" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/11). WHAT WOULD FOX THINK OF TAMPA IN THE AFC? Tampa's WTVT-TV, Channel 13, was one of the 12 CBS affiliates purchased by Fox and New World Communications in May, 1994.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the $51M antitrust judgment won by former Patriots owner William Sullivan against the NFL in '91 and ordered a new trial. The decision, written by Chief Justice Juan Torruella, found that U.S. District Court Judge Edward Harrington "erred by not instructing the jury to consider several key aspects of the case." Sullivan, on having to go back to trial: "I can't wait to get back into the arena again. Of course I'll do it. I've been in this thing for 30 years and I've had my block knocked off by people of little consequence." Sullivan had brought suit against 21 of the NFL's 27 teams for its policy prohibiting public ownership. Sullivan said the policy had stopped him in '87 from selling 49% of the Patriots in a public offering. He ended up selling the team to Victor Kiam for about $83.7M. Sullivan sued the NFL in '91 for $116M in damages, charging that the policy against public ownership forced him to sell the team at a lower price (May & Grunwald, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/17). The NFL said the court's ruling undid a "travesty" against the league (Joseph Rebello, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/19). Will McDonough calls Sullivan's suit "contrived," and adds, "Justice has been served" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/17).
Many NHL beat writers focused on the labor situation, in particular at the players' anger that their training camp expenses are not being covered by the teams. LOS ANGELES: King defenseman Marty McSorley said that the NHL "created the specter of a training-camp lockout to mask its real intention -- to stage a lockout before the season begins and players draw their first paychecks." Helene Elliott notes that no formal talks are scheduled, although NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "talk often, as do the groups' respective lawyers" (L.A. TIMES, 9/11). DALLAS: Dan Noxon, noting that there are no collective bargaining sessions scheduled: "This is ridiculous, particularly in light of the league's pending agreement with Fox" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/11). PHILADELPHIA: Gary Miles notes that veterans "are extending helping hands to teammates who need a little financial boost" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/11). NEW YORK: Rangers' Mike Hudson on Bettman's "approach" to the situation: "We're not happy about it. It's almost like a dictatorship now. He's not going to force us into a settlement" Joe LaPointe notes that "there has been little talk among the hockey players of selective wildcat strikes." Hockey players, as a group, "are far less confrontational than their baseball brethren" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/11). BUFFALO: Sabres owner Seymour Knox said he expects the two sides to "avert a lockout" before the October 1 deadline and "resume normal and friendly relations." Knox said hockey is nothing like baseball (PHILA. INQUIRER, 9/11). BOSTON: Kevin Paul DuPont notes, "Believe it when the players say they're prepared for a lockout. Their union has issued all 26 player representatives a credit card with a $50,000 limit -- enough to buy one-way tickets home for everyone on or about Oct. 1" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/11).
The NHL and the NHLPA are scheduled to meet Friday in either Toronto or New York to resume negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN 9/14). Player Agent Rob Ingraham told the SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY yesterday that despite the talks, a lockout is still likely: "I think these discussions have started too late to allow for the give-and-take that is required for progress in these type of negotiations" (THE DAILY, 9/14). OWNERS PLANNING SHORTENED SEASON? Speculation continued yesterday that the league plans to begin the season October 1, and then lock out the players a few days later so that owners don't have to give entire refunds to season ticket holders. In fact, one source within the NHLPA alleged that the league owners had already drawn up a 50-game schedule for the coming season in anticipation of a long work stoppage (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN, 9/14). BREAK IN UNION? There are "rumblings of dissension within the players ranks -- chiefly over the issue of a rookie salary cap." According to one source, the NHL has proposed setting a $500,000 limit on entry level salaries in lieu of team-wide controls. Fuller adds, "Some players would agree to that kind of trade-off" (TORONTO SUN, 9/14). THE GREAT ONES WILL GET THE CASH: In Vancouver, Kent Gilchrist writes, "No matter what the next collective bargaining agreement brings, the reality of hockey in the '90s means there are going to be a few core players and then everyone else" (VANCOUVER PROVINCE, 9/14). LINKAGE WITH THE NEW TV DEAL? NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, after announcing the new Fox/ESPN TV arrangement (See story num. 5): "I have a theory that everything is linked to everything else. I wish it was, so I could hold a news conference tomorrow and announce an agreement on our other negotiations." In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon writes one aspect of the new TV deals -- "the willingness of local clubs to waive some blackout rights over Fox and ESPN -- is a small step in the revenue-sharing direction. Individual clubs will actually make a sacrifice to increase the revenue pool all clubs draw from" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/14).
The NHLPA on Friday presented Commissioner Gary Bettman with what the union believes is a "last best hope" for a Collective Bargaining Agreement before the start of the season, October 1st (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 9/17). The NHLPA proposal involves a complex 5% tax on salaries and gate receipts which the players contend would raise $35M in added revenue for small-market teams. But leagues officials said they are skeptical, "fearing" that it does not provide enough revenue sharing for small-market teams such as Winnipeg and Quebec (CANADIAN PRESS/TORONTO SUN, 9/19). NHLPA president Mike Gartner labeled the proposal as a "very novel idea": "We've looked at their concerns, such as the difference in revenue between big and small market teams, and tried to address them" (CP/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 9/17). STILL LOOKS LIKE A LOCKOUT: Despite the recent talks, speculation remains "rife that a lockout would likely last into December" (N.Y. POST, 9/17). Lightning GM Phil Esposito: "If we don't get an agreement, there will be a stoppage. ... We refuse to get into a baseball scenario" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/18). In Boston, Kevin Dupont writes: "They aren't going to find a cash- flow formula in less than two weeks" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18). Talks are expected to resume in New York tomorrow, at which time Bettman will respond to the NHLPA proposal (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/19). PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE? NHL management was "shaken" Friday by a rumor that the NHLPA plans to strike before the season begins October 1. An "upset" NHL official explained that the players were considering a strike because of the rollbacks that Bettman had imposed early this month. But the NHLPA denied any strike rumors (N.Y. POST, 9/17). SMOKE SCREEN? "There are many players who feel the salary- cap issue is a smokescreen for the owners' real target" of salary arbitration. Speculation has arisen that the owners plan to offer concessions on the NHL's restrictive free agency system in hopes of eliminating arbitration permanently. But Gartner indicated that the players will be unwilling to bend on the issue of salary arbitration (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/17). WILL PLAYERS CRACK ON ROOKIE CAP? Oilers Player Rep Kelly Buchberger on Friday suggested that the players would be willing to agree to a cap on rookie salaries to resolve the dispute (CP/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 9/17).
The NHL Board of Governors is expected to ratify today a $155M, five-year TV deal with Fox, marking the first time the league will have regular season, playoff, and Stanley Cup finals games broadcast on a regular basis since the '74-'75 season. A joint NHL/Fox news conference in New York is scheduled for tomorrow (mult., 9/10-12). Smith Barney media analyst Bill Meyers told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY this morning: "The NHL hasn't had a significant presence on broadcast television. So, this is as important for the league as it is for Fox" (DAILY sources, 9/12). HERE'S HOW IT WORKS: Final details have not been made public, but Fox, which reaches 90M homes, will reportedly kick- off its hockey schedule with the January 21 All-Star Game; air at least 12 games of the week on Sunday afternoons through April 9; cover a playoff game weekly; and air a number of Stanley Cup Finals games in prime time. Coverage may be regionalized (mult., 9/10-12). "Fox will also...be guaranteed exclusive national rights to a Stanley Cup Game 7, should one be played" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 9/12). REVENUE SHARING: The deal "reportedly assures $31M annually to the NHL under a unique financing plan in which the league will sell and keep advertising revenue until it reaches its guarantee. If it falls short, Fox would make up the difference. If it exceeds the total, the league and Fox will share that revenue" (Jack Craig, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/10). THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS: 18-34 year olds are the name of the game and "Fox also has pledged an extensive promotional campaign for a sport whose demographic of younger viewers also fits nicely with the network's audience" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 9/10). SUDS AND DUDS: Anheuser-Busch and Nike are major backers, according to Stars President Jim Lites: "They were already in and said if you do network television, we will make this level of commitment. [Commissioner Gary Bettman] was then able to go into the networks with those commitments and make it happen" (Barry Horn, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). FOX HUNT: The NHL deal "is further evidence that Murdoch is determined to be a player in the bidding war for every major sports franchise" (Jim Benson, VARIETY, 9/9). "As it did in December when it won the rights to broadcast NFL games for four seasons, Fox again outbid CBS," which made a final offer of $150M. NBC and ABC did not bid at all, and Fox Chair Rupert Murdoch "personally negotiated the NHL deal" (Barry Horn, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). Smith Barney's Bill Meyers, in an interview this morning: "It adds the 'S' to Fox Sports" (DAILY sources, 9/12). ESPN REAX: The NHL has reportedly extended its deal with ESPN for two years and will allow the cable network to "televise late-round playoff games in home markets" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 9/12). In a statement released Friday, ESPN -- which has completed two years of its five-year, $80M cable deal with the NHL -- expressed approval of the Fox contract: "We have been saying all along we have been working closely with the NHL in its continuous efforts to obtain a broadcast network agreement in return for certain contract modifications, including greater exclusivity. We agree that greater broadcast network exposure will benefit all involved" (Barry Horn, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). LIGHTNING GOVERNOR DAVID LEFEVRE: "If the product goes well and picks up more viewers than expected, the package could increase even further" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). CAPITALS PRESIDENT DICK PATRICK: "This adds to our exposure and gives the perception in this country that hockey is becoming a national sport as opposed to a regional one as it has been in the past. If we're hard to find on TV, we're not major league, and that's more important than the finances of the deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/10). TIMING IS EVERYTHING: The Fox deal comes amid reports of a threatened work stoppage, so "the question now becomes whether revenue from the Fox deal would be enough to help avert a player walkout" (Jim Benson, VARIETY, 9/9). HELSINKI ACCORD: According to a source of THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, an agreement reached in Finland over the weekend between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation provides a framework for NHL players to go to the Olympics, as well as a possible joint NHL/IIHF Pan-European "Super-League" (DAILY sources, 9/12).
"The owners have shown their resolve. ... The owners, who have dutifully followed small-market leader Bud Selig, can celebrate their unprecedented solidarity. Then they can spend the off season trying to keep baseball from exploding. Or imploding" (Any Niedzielka, MIAMI HERALD, 9/14). CURIOUS ABOUT GEORGE: Many reports in New York note that George Steinbrenner has been surprisingly quiet in his solidarity with fellow owners. Jack Curry writes, "Bud, the acting commissioner, has apparently tamed the boss" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck notes that Steinbrenner even came to Selig's defense in comments earlier this week to the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL (Baltimore SUN, 9/14). In a report that has Steinbrenner saying some small market teams should be able to move rather than big-market teams support them, Joel Sherman makes a point to note, "Steinbrenner has surprisingly remained a low-key figure and has not broken ranks" (N.Y. POST, 9/14). YESTERDAY'S BUSINESS: The MLBPA began to distribute more than $10M in checks for players on strike. The initial payments come primarily from licensing money the MLBPA withheld last year (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). In Washington, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum's (D- OH) bill to temporarily lift baseball's anti-trust exemption was blocked on the floor of the Senate by NE Sen. James Exon (mult., 9/14).
Despite the success of this weekend's President's Cup, there is no guarantee that the PGA Tour event will return to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, VA, in '96. RTJ President Bobby Russell said the club and the PGA Tour "have a handshake agreement on holding the event here again in two years," although there is no guarantee on its return. PGA Tour Commissioner Tom Finchem is concerned about the limited viewing area for the spectators, which reduces the amount of tickets that can be sold. There is a "desire to expand the event, which might mean bigger ticket sales now that the Tour will have two years to sell the event" (John Hawkins, WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/19).
Weekend talk again turned to the idea of the players creating their own league. Braves player rep Tom Glavine: "It's been talked about, absolutely. Some might think it's far- fetched, but it is not. Hopefully, we won't get to that point" (Mike Fish, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/12). While former MLBPA general counsel Richard Moss, who tried unsuccessfully to start a rival league in '89, sees "another window of opportunity approaching" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 9/11) -- others are doubtful. Peter Schmuck writes, "The logistics of starting a new league would be so daunting that it seems unlikely that it would be considered seriously" (Baltimore SUN, 9/11). WILL THEY HOLD? In Chicago, Jerome Holtzman writes, "Many [players] are eager to return to the field, even with a salary cap. Eventually, they will surrender. And the longer they hold out, the more they will lose" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/11). John Helyar writes the MLBPA is "potentially the far bigger loser" if the season shuts down (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/12). On ESPN's "Sports Reporters," Bill Conlin predicted that the owners will open the camps next year and "Barry Bonds and a lot of other players making $2 million a year will come into camp. If the union is not broken, it is bankrupt" (ESPN, 9/11).
Officials from the NHL, Fox Broadcasting, ESPN, Anheuser- Busch and Nike gathered yesterday to officially announce the league's new broadcast TV deal with Fox and an extension of its cable deal with ESPN. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman cited demographics as a key factor, declaring that hockey "is a perfect match for Fox's younger, hipper audience": "Fox is strong in the 18-34 age group and that's where we are strongest as well. That is where the future of our game lies" (Rob Longley, TORONTO SUN, 9/14). DETAILS: Fox's premier telecast will the All-Star Game in San Jose on January 21. Fox will have exclusive rights to the final two Sundays of the regular season and playoff games, including a minimum of two Stanley Cup finals games and any Game 7 finals match-up. In addition to about 100 regular season games on ESPN and ESPN2, the cable net will have exclusive rights to Games 2, 3, 5, and 6 of the finals and up to 12 games of the conference finals. Fox will reportedly pay $155M; ESPN's deal is said to be worth $65M. KEEPING THE REGIONALS HAPPY: "Less pleased" with the deal will be regional cable networks and local outlets that carry the NHL. With Fox aboard and ESPN's new exclusivities, "they will have fewer games to produce and sell." MSG Network President Doug Moss: "It's disappointing. But I understand that Bettman is taking the league where everyone else is going. ... It's great for hockey. Great for the Rangers. Not so great for MSG" (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). Bettman: "If we increase the fan base for NHL hockey, more people are going to become interested in the vast bulk of games carried on the regional networks" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/14). FOX SAYS "TOUGH" TO OTHER NETS: Fox Sports President David Hill, asked about concerns from other nets that Fox "doesn't share their concern about making sure a sports deal is profitable": "What do I say to them? I say that's tough" (Bob Raissman, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/14). Rudy Martzke asks about Fox: "Can Wimbledon and baseball be far behind?" (USA TODAY, 9/14). In Baltimore, Milton Kent also sees Wimbledon and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as potential properties Fox could bid for (Baltimore SUN, 9/14). MARKETING PARTNERS: NHL Senior VP & COO Stephen Solomon credited Anheuser-Busch and Nike for signing on as marketing partners before they knew what network the NHL would be on or what the schedule would be. Anheuser-Busch VP for Corporate Media & Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo noted that A-B saw the NHL as a great way to prevent new product "Ice Draft" from experiencing a "sophomore jinx" (THE DAILY, 9/14). Ponturo: "Hockey, with access to customers aged 21-34, is where we want to be" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). Nike Dir of League Relations Doug Stamm cited the "breadth of the sponsorship package" and the "perfect fit" between his company and Fox. Stamm noted opportunities at home -- to spread the Nike/NHL street hockey program to each of the NHL cities -- and internationally, through the NHL's new agreement with the Int'l Ice Hockey Federation. Asked if other companies would have access to the same packages as A-B and Nike, the NHL's Solomon said: "We have every belief that they're just the start of companies that are going to be part of this hockey package. And in fact, there's a tremendous amount of interest out there from a variety of companies at this very moment" (THE DAILY, 9/14). AD SALES: Bettman said the sale of ad time on Fox will be a "joint venture" between the league and Fox. He noted that the first two sales -- A-B and Nike -- came from the NHL: "It's a partnership, and ultimately we have control. But it is a partnership in terms of how we're going to try to execute it" (THE DAILY, 9/14). PAY-PER-VIEW: ESPN was also given the opportunity to launch a pay-per-view plan that would allow cable viewers to watch games from outside their market (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). REVIEWS: "The deal may be a sign of the NHL's increasing popularity" (Tom Ford, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/14). "Don't look now, but the [NHL] is moving into the mainstream of professional sports" (Jeff Gordon, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/14). In New York, Jay Greenberg called it "fortuitous timing" for the NHL: "We'd like to see some improved overnights before becoming convinced that Fox has bought into something big" (N.Y. POST, 9/14). "Can Bart Simpson's pocket change save the [NHL's] smaller markets?" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/14). Paul Kangas said Fox "is at it again" ("Nightly Business Report," PBS, 9/13). ESPN's Robin Roberts: "Apparently Fox had a little money left over from acquiring NFL games" ("SportsCenter", 9/13).
The major decision facing the owners is whether to declare an impasse and implement their salary cap system, and "implementation seems to be the most critical step." One source on the players' side said management "might be having second thoughts because the strike has drastically changed the clubs' economic position and the change could affect the proposed payroll cap." The source said if the owners do implement, "they might first alter their proposal to account for the change and offer it to the union" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 9/17). Bill Madden writes, "Judging by what has happened so far, you have to believe the owners are intent on implementing their system (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/18). NO WAY, NO HOW: Former MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller: "I can think of no terms, no conditions of employment that would produce a settlement that would be ratified by a majority of the players and by 21 or more of the 28 owners. (Frank Fitzpatrick, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/17). IN THE LINE OF FIRE: One attorney "familiar with such matters" said Bud Selig's dual role as small-market owner and acting commissioner "has its perils": "What would really get him in trouble is if some franchise goes broke and then a trustee or somebody who comes in to run the club brings a lawsuit because of his conflict of interest. And, clearly he has a serious conflict of interest" (Frank Fitzpatrick, PHILA. INQUIRER, 9/18). Selig is pictured on the cover of Sunday's NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE -- sitting at a table with a bat in front of him (N.Y. TIMES, 9/18). DEATH TO TBN? The fact that a work stoppage ensures the owners will revisit The Baeball Network provides "one possible explanation" why Yankees owner George Steinbrenner "has gone along so easily with the small-market owners while losing several million dollars more than them." Steinbrenner: "I think we'll have the right to walk. I'm not hopeful for that [TBN] deal working. You've got Fox, and CBS has to be hungry" (Jon Heyman, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 9/16). THE PLAYERS' LEAGUE: Don Fehr "cautions against overexuberance" about a players' league: "Venues are a major problem." One agent: "Are players willing to go from making $5 million to losing $2 million? I think not" (Peter Gammons, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18). BRING IN THE POLITICIANS: Representatives of the owners and players met with a committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is expected to take up the issue of the strike at its meeting this week in Knoxville, TN. Cities with MLB franchises are considering a lawsuit that would focus on violations of stadium leases as well as lost jobs and tax revenue due to the strike (AP/mult., 9/17). CUTBACKS: In a meeting with about 110 Cardinal and Civic Center employees, Cardinals President Mark Lamping said that no front-office employees would be laid off (Rick Hummel, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/17). However, the Padres and A's could not afford to maintain their full staff. On Friday, Padres President Dick Freeman announced the firing of half the team's administrative staff, including the team's publicity head (AP, 9/17). The A's also announced a layoff of 17 out of 71 front office workers. A's President & GM Sandy Alderson: "We held the line as long as we could" (AP, 9/16). Thirteen teams have decided not to participate in the Arizona Instructional League this fall (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/18). A vote on the fate of the Arizona League will be held this week (Peter Gammons, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18). OPEN HOUSE: The Cardinals will open Busch Stadium to the fans next Sunday. Admission and parking will be free. Fans will be able to tour the clubhouses, press box and play on the field (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/17).
With the latest round of talks between MLB owners and players yielding no settlement, the MLBPA and its Washington representatives will turn their attention to Congressional action on baseball's antitrust exemption. As early as today, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, the Antitrust Subcommittee Chair and a longtime foe of baseball's special status, will re-introduce legislation to have the exemption lifted. Metzenbaum has pushed twice before to change the game's status, most recently in June '94 when his bill was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 10-7 vote. Now, Metzenbaum is back for one "last stand" before he retires. He has scaled back his previous legislation and found an influential co-sponsor in Utah Republican Orrin Hatch. The Metzenbaum/Hatch bill lifts the ban for the duration of the strike and would allow players to sue if the owners unilaterally impose a salary cap during the off-season. But even with a new co-sponsor and a change in tactics, the bill faces an uphill fight in a Senate largely fearful of taking a stand on this controversial issue. According to an exclusive straw poll of the U.S. Senate by THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, only 34 Senators were willing to take even an anonymous stand on lifting the ban (all 100 Senate offices were contacted over the Labor Day recess). Among those that responded, there was little consensus or any indication of party-line uniformity: 20 favored revoking baseball's antitrust exemption (12 Republican, 8 Democrat) and 14 opposed (6 Republican, 8 Democrat). While the numbers signal a considerable undecided vote up for grabs by either side, there are discouraging signs for pro- union forces. Many of the "non-answers" came from traditionally pro-labor senators torn between trust-busting and protecting minor league interests in their home states. The Metzenbaum/Hatch bill could be taken up any time after the Senate resumes business today, either as a free standing piece of legislation or as an amendment to an existing bill. That would force each senator to vote on the measure. One high- level Metzenbaum staffer said: "I can't imagine any Senator willing to block a bill that would bring baseball back on the field. If they want to do that, let them do it publicly on the Senate floor. We are confident that if we have an up and down vote, with a promise from the players to play, that we will get the majority of votes." Baseball's owners, however, are ready for a legislative fight and confident of victory. MLB Dir. of Government Relations Gene Callahan: "We will be prepared." According to one staffer on the Senate's Judiciary Committee: "The baseball owners have an unruly amount of power up here. All they need is 24 hours to beat this bill." Another Judiciary Committee staffer predicts Metzenbaum will "get hammered on the floor -- maybe 20 votes maximum": "It won't even end the strike, it will just bring about more court action." MLB's financial support of the minor leagues is a powerful stick for the owners. In fact, many senators reluctant to take a position cited fear of losing their minor league teams. As Callahan explains it, lifting the ban "would destroy Class A ball and would wipe out the Carolina League." Without players beholden to their team for six years, the majors "are not going to spend that kind of money on player development," said Callahan, who puts the subsidy from MLB to the minor leagues at $211M. John Fithian, an attorney with Patton, Boggs & Blow and Washington counsel to the MLBPA, acknowledges the force behind MLB's payment to the minors, noting that before the subsidy agreement, the minors favored lifting the ban. Despite the long odds, Fithian said the MLBPA intends to press on: "Eventually this legislation will get passed. Maybe not now, but the ground work we are setting is important. ... If we don't get the antitrust exemption lifted, another strike will happen again down the road."
REPLACEMENTS: Red Sox owner John Harrington called use of replacement players a "last resort," but added: "We'd have to make all kinds of adjustments with our radio and TV packages, our ticket prices. It would be different, but it's something we'd have to consider if it got to that point" (Nick Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/14). Braves President Stan Kasten does not rule out using replacement players: "We have an awful lot of interest in our sport because the Atlanta Braves play in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and soon in an even grander stadium, and because the Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park, and because the New York Yankees play in Yankee Stadium. ... And I think our teams will still go on even if, God forbid, the names have to change" (Tim Tucker, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/14). PLAYERS' LEAGUE: Braves pitcher Tom Glavine: "I don't think that's quite as far-fetched as some people think. We're sure if we get that far we can find other owners out there, or work out details to have players running the show" (Tim Tucker, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/14). Dick Moss, who preceded Fehr as MLBPA Exec Dir, has been the "key figure in efforts to start a new league." Moss, in statements yesterday, made a point of saying that as baseball begins to re-organize, it is unlikely that Milwaukee "will ever see major league baseball again" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/14). In New York, Joel Sherman recalls Moss' failed attempt to start a new league in '91. At present, the union is "downplaying its desire to investigate a new league, saying it is much more interested" in resolving the conflict. Union leadership also said a new league would not be used as a "bargaining chip, but would only be approached with the idea of revolutionizing the sport" (N.Y. POST, 9/14).
In Chicago, Bernie Lincicome writes, "Well, tennis got what it wanted, Andre Agassi." USTA president Bumpy Frazier announcing the champion of the U.S. Open: "Ladies and gentlemen, the most popular tennis player in the entire world, Andre Agassi." Michael Stich, on the comment: "What a stupid thing to say." Lincicome: "Yes it was, but forgive tennis for getting beside itself over Agassi finally filling another crack in his potential, not to mention a huge hole in its appeal" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/12). STATE OF THE GAME: CBS's Mary Carillo: "The best thing that could have happened to tennis was Andre Agassi winning the U.S. Open." CBS's Tim Ryan, referring to Sally Jenkins' 5/94 "Is Tennis Dying?" piece in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: "There is a lot of action in tennis in reaction to that piece" (CBS, 9/11). Cliff Drysdale, Bud Collins, Tracy Austin, and Tony Trabert appeared on PBS' "Charlie Rose" to discuss the state of the game ("Charlie Rose," 9/9). Agassi appeared this morning on both CBS' and ABC's news programs. TENDING HOUSE: The Women's Tennis Council, "currently in the midst of fending off a takeover threat" by IMG, took an "internal step forward in strengthening its own position" by naming Anne Person Worcester as the first CEO of the WTA Tour (N.Y. TIMES, 9/10). The Tennis Industry Association (TIA) approved a plan at the U.S. Open to invest $15M over the next three years in an effort to "revitalize the sport and attract new players" (DAILY sources, 9/12). Phillip Morris USA plans to organize and promote a women's legends tour that will feature Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, among others. The tour will play in six unannounced cities and hold a final championship event in early December at Delray Beach, FL (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/9). IMAGE MAY NOT BE EVERYTHING: CBS cut to a shot of Brooke Shields using a Minolta to take a picture of her beau, Agassi, a Canon pitchman.