One of the "major confrontations" between owners and players comes today on Capitol Hill, as the House Judiciary Committee's Economic and Commercial Law Subcommittee holds hearings on baseball's antitrust exemption (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 9/22). Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-CO) expects "a lot of passion" directed at both sides. One baseball exec: "It's going to be ugly" (Steve Fainaru, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/22). In Hartford, Jack O'Connell recalls Casey Stengel's "rambling" testimony before the Senate in 1958: "Not much laughter is expected today" (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/22). SCHEDULED TO TESTIFY: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr, Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, NABPL VP Stanley Brand (representing the minors), author John Feinstein and Sports Fans United's Adam Kolton. Other owners, the Red Sox' John Harrington and the Rockies' Jerry McMorris are expected to attend. IS THIS THE YEAR? While Congress has often reviewed the exemption but taken no action, MLBPA officials "seem to regard this as the best chance they've ever had to get the exemption repealed, or at least limited." But House Judiciary Committee Chair Jack Brooks (D-TX) doubts Congress will take action this year: "It will probably go on into next year. But it will be right at the top of the radar screen then" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 9/22). Rep. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a former player and co-sponsor of the bill before the House, says chances of a vote this year are slim: "On a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 2, because this is a critical election year and there are so many other critical issues" (Mike Dodd, USA TODAY, 9/22). Schroeder predicts baseball will be "very apt to see action" if next year's season seems threatened (ESPN, 9/21). "Public anguish over the players' strike and the owners' cancellation of the World Series might help focus Congress' attention" (Thomas Mulligan, L.A. TIMES, 9/22). PRO-EXEMPTION: Giants owner Peter Magowan said without the exemption the "Giants would be in Florida right now." Magowan added, "Congress doesn't have any business investing itself in the midst of a labor dispute" ("Sports Center," ESPN, 9/21). MLB's DC lobbyist Gene Callahan, comparing the movements of franchises in other sports: "Fan stability is the Number 1 reason here" ("Morning Edition," NPR, 9/22). The NABPL's Brand "will tell the committee that the minors could be devastated if baseball loses the exemption" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/22).
Leagues Governing Bodies
The ATP Tour FanFest, the miniature tennis theme park featuring skill contests, video games, exhibits and virtual reality machines, will make its international debut September 28- October 3, at Sydney's Darling Harbour -- one of the country's premiere tourist attractions. The FanFest tour, sponsored by IBM, has previously stopped in Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Cincinnati and Long Island. The goal is to add to the entertainment and fun of tennis and develop new and younger fans. While the FanFest tour is sponsored by IBM, SEGA is sponsoring one of the tennis video games (THE DAILY).
In this morning's WASHINGTON POST, David Aldridge writes that 18 of the league's 28 teams are spending more than the $34.608M limit on player salaries. All 18 teams are technically under the cap, but the teams' total expenditures include monies such as signing bonuses paid to players this season. For cap purposes, however, signing bonuses are prorated over the length of a player's contract, even if the team has already given the player his signing bonus in total. In addition, some incentives count against next year's cap. According to these figures, the NFL cap is not the "hard" cap that it has been called, but is instead a "much softer cap." NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw: "The cap is adjustable. ... Quit talking about 34 point 6 [million]; this is what they're spending. We all know what the cap is." The following are NFL payrolls, according to figures obtained by the POST (WASHINGTON POST, 9/22): TEAM IN MILLIONS TEAM IN MILLIONS Redskins $42.597 Browns $34.859 Cardinals $42.492 49ers $34.630 Seahawks $40.562 Eagles $34.630 Patriots $39.811 Bills $34.613 Colts $38.955 Giants $34.325 Lions $38.415 Bears $34.150 Chargers $38.332 Vikings $33.928 Oilers $38.255 Rams $33.571 Saints $38.248 Bucs $32.132 Chiefs $37.822 Bengals $31.855 Raiders $37.741 Cowboys $31.344 Falcons $36.330 Dolphins $31.276 Jets $35.658 Broncos $31.196 Packers $35.226 Steelers $30.888 SALARY CAP CASE STUDY: One element of Deion Sanders' contract with the 49ers includes a $5M option year in 1995. But 49ers President Carmen Policy explained that the $5M option was put in to make Sanders an unrestricted free agent. The contract calls for a payment to Sanders of $3M on February 18, 1995. If the 49ers decline payment, then Deion will become a unrestricted and unconditional free agent. Policy said that a payment of $3M to Sanders would be an "impossibility" and said called the deal a "one-year adventure" (Clark Judge, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/22). CLARIFICAITION: Tuesday's story in THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on the NBA salary cap should have stated that a judge allowed the NBA to void Horace Grant's contract by refusing to issue a summary judgment in the case. The judge did not rule that the contract violated the salary cap.
Richard Ravitch, chief negotiator for the owners, and representatives of the MLBPA are scheduled to testify before the House Education and Labor Committee's Subcommittee on Labor- Management Relations on Thursday. MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr is not expected to appear. Subcommittee Chairman Pat Williams (D-MT) proposes convening a 3-member arbitration board -- one owner rep, one MLBPA rep and one member of the American Arbitration Association -- on February 1 if there is no settlement by then. Williams: "Binding arbitration should only be a last resort. ... But I find myself seething about this strike. I'm having this hearing as a fan who happens to be the chairman of this subcommittee. I've made up my mind to raise legislative hell to get this thing settled" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 9/27). THE NEW LEAGUE: Agent Tom Selakovich said details on a new baseball league "could be forthcoming in 10 days": "I wouldn't call it a joke." Dick Moss, the "main mover" behind the league as well as a similar plan "stillborn" in 1989, still expects to make his announcement on October 19. Agent Scott Boras: "Dick has a network left from the 1989 plan and he's said to have principals willing to invest." Cubs Player Rep Randy Myers said there are "10-plus corporations" and "a couple of broadcasting stations" willing to sign on (Jim Byers, TORONTO STAR, 9/27). DON FEHR'S TOUR OF AMERICA: 56 players attended a briefing by Don Fehr in Chicago yesterday -- the 4th of seven stops. White Sox slugger Frank Thomas: "We're digging in" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/27). SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT: Orioles Owner Peter Angelos said his private meeting with Fehr in Little Italy Saturday was done without the knowledge of MLB officials. But he made no apologies: "It would be helpful if Don Fehr and his associates had personal contact on a periodic basis with every owner in the major leagues, both American and National. ... What I was doing is what all owners should do" (Mark Hyman, Baltimore SUN, 9/27).
"With training camp due to begin a week from Friday, the NBA may be close to joining the pro sports labor battleground." Yesterday, 76ers owner Harold Katz, who sits on the league's labor relations committee, addressed the issue of a possible lockout: "Anything is possible. I'm hopeful that it just doesn't come to that, but that's a possibility. And it's possible that that won't come to pass, either. I don't want it to happen under any circumstances." Owners and players have not met since the collective bargaining agreement expired in June. The players have been to court twice in three months "trying to challenge the legality of the draft, the salary cap and restricted free agency." Katz said that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's reasoning is right -- to postpone the season rather than play without an agreement. The next date to watch in the NBA is October 5, when the owners meet in New York (Frank Lawlor, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/27). A report in Dallas notes that both sides consider a lockout in the NBA "unlikely" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/27).
The NFL's "stocking plan" for its two expansion teams is expected to finalized next Wednesday when league owners convene outside Dallas for a special meeting. It had been thought that the Jaguars and Panthers would not learn the specifics of the player stocking plan until October. However, a league official said yesterday, "It looks as if the plan will be finalized next week." The NFL's planned agenda for the two-day meeting is to address the stocking plan on Wednesday and realignment on Thursday. "There is not expected to be a decision on realignment." More likely, realignment will be addressed in more detail when the league holds its fall meetings November 1-2 in Chicago (Pete Prisco, FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/22). STUCK ON STOCKING: Several key issues of the stocking plan "have been major sticking points," including when the two expansion teams would be free to renegotiate the contracts of the veteran players they select in the allocation draft. The league had pushed for a July date, but the teams wanted an earlier date. It now appears the date will be in April. Another issue has been which roster would be used for the allocation draft. The expansion teams want to use the opening day rosters, which would prevent teams from signing players at the end of the season for the "primary purpose of exposing them to the expansion teams." The teams may also have one extra draft pick per round allocated to them in the regular draft in their first three years of existence (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/22). SUPER BOWL, COMING TO A STADIUM NEAR YOU? The NFL Super Bowl Policy committee will meet this week with representatives of Miami and San Francisco, the two finalists for the 1999 Super Bowl. A decision could be made at the owners meeting in November. The Committee will "also be assessing the field for 2000: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Tempe, and the runner up of '99, with a decision on 2000 coming late next year (Larry Weisman, USA TODAY, 9/22).
NFL owners meet tomorrow and Thursday in Dallas to vote on a stocking plan for the two expansion teams and to continue discussions on realignment. STOCKING PLAN: The executive committee of the NFL Management Council is scheduled to meet tonight to finalize its stocking plan for the Panthers and the Jaguars. It is expected that the 28 existing teams will have to expose only 5-7 players each in the expansion draft. And, instead of getting "as many as 21 additional draft picks over the next three years, as was originally considered, Carolina and Jacksonville may get only 10 to 14 extra picks apiece over that span." Mark Richardson, Director of Business Operations for the Panthers, "fears the Panthers will field a poor product not because of any front- office shortcomings, but 'we're not going to have access to talented players.'" The exposed lists will probably consist of older players with higher salaries, or players with injury problems (Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/27). REALIGNMENT: There probably will be no resolution on realignment, but it is beginning to look like the Panthers and Jaguars will be "plugged into the four-team division," with the Panthers in the NFC West and the Jags in the AFC Central (Gary Myers, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/27). In Tampa, Pat Yasinskas notes that because of the Jaguars and the Bucs overlapping TV rights, the two teams most likely will not be placed in the same conference. There has been talk that the Bucs and Colts might switch divisions so that the Dolphins and Bucs could play twice a year. Bucs VP Rich McKay said last week the team would like to develop the in-state rivalry but it is not "displeased" with the NFC Central. However the NFC Central may be "displeased" with the Bucs. Lions VP Chuck Schmidt: "Clearly, we want Carolina replacing Tampa." Schmidt noted that the Panthers would bring in more than double the division's average in visitor's shares. Schmidt said the NFC Central has the league's lowest average visitor's share -- $525,000 -- and the Bucs are part of the reason. NFL Dir of Communications Greg Aiello: "Financial benefits are a consideration that will be a part of the analysis for realignment" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/27). USA TODAY's Gordon Forbes notes that the NFL might wind up with two moves: Atlanta and Arizona (9/27). CHARITY: Christmas in April USA, the nation's largest volunteer home rehabilitation initiative, will honor the NFL on September 30 at its national conference in San Francisco. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will accept the award on behalf of the league (THE DAILY).
Following five hours of negotiations between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow in Toronto, prospects of a resolution prior to the start of the season "appeared dim." Bettman and Goodenow will resume talks today, and will probably meet in New York on Thursday to continue the negotiations. While Bettman contended that there is no deadline for a deal to avoid a postponement of the season, he did concede that an announcement will have to be made "sometime Friday morning" so that teams will be able to coordinate travel plans (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/27). The Mighty Ducks have already cancelled weekend hotel reservations in Dallas (L.A. TIMES, 9/27). HOLDING THE LINE: Bettman was not optimistic that a deal could be struck before Saturday: "The deadline still exists. We will not open without an agreement" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 9/27). Bettman added: "We're not at an end point yet by any stretch of the imagination. We are in better shape than if I said to you, 'Talks have broken off and I'm heading back to New York'" (TORONTO STAR, 9/27). BLEAK ON BOTH SIDES: Goodenow: "It is very clear we have a wide difference of opinion" (TORONTO SUN, 9/27). Goodenow added the union will not sacrifice its position to avoid a "lockout." Sources close to the negotiations indicated that the season "could be delayed for months." One negotiator said that during talks over the weekend "we seemed to be talking in a more serious vein, but something seems to have broken down between now and then" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/27). There were reports the players were willing to yield on a rookie salary cap in return for retaining arbitration rights and a mild tax on payroll and revenues (N.Y. POST, 9/27). NHLPA VP Kelly Miller: "The next two days will show how willing the owners are to make a deal" (Mark Asher, WASHINGTON POST, 9/27). The TORONTO STAR obtained a September 24 letter from Goodenow to the players in which he alleges that Bettman's negotiating tactics are designed to "threaten, intimidate and coerce." From the letter: "Simply put, the league is out to pressure you into accepting a series of takeaways and clawbacks that would otherwise be rejected out of hand" (TORONTO STAR, 9/27). POWER PLAY? The N.Y. POST reports that Bettman and NHL teams have "apparently broken their word" to players and are now imposing September rollbacks retroactive to August. Agent John MacLean: "If the owners and league management aren't going to bargain in good faith, then what's the point?" MacLean said Bettman is "damn lucky they're hockey players. Any other group would have walked by now" (N.Y. POST, 9/27). NHLPA VP Ken Baumgartner: "For us to sign an agreement with the onus on major rollbacks, which stands today, is not in the best interest of the players" ("Sports Center," ESPN, 9/26). Larry Brooks predicts the NHLPA "will split, sooner or later" (N.Y. POST, 9/27).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow met for more than four hours yesterday in New York. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday in Toronto, though members of both negotiating teams will meet in the interim. While "there's no sense" the two sides are "bridging the enormous gap" between their positions, a "little something must be happening to keep the talks alive" (Bob McKenzie, TORONTO STAR, 9/22). ESPN's Brett Haber contends that the past two days of negotiations accomplished little. The players and owners "find themselves, largely, in the same place where they found themselves two days before" ("Sportscenter," 9/22). CBS' Harry Smith: "In a show of unity, NHL players shook hands before their preseason games last night" ("CBS This Morning," 9/22). BETTMAN CATCHING SOME FLAK: Maple Leafs defenseman and former player rep Garth Butcher yesterday accused Bettman of being "far more interested" in busting the union, than of being concerned with the "well-being of hockey": "It's personal with him. ... There's right and there is wrong and what he's doing is not right and is not reasonable. It's not bargaining, it's bullying." Butcher added: "No one person is bigger than the game, but he's [Bettman] acting like he is" (Steve Simmons, TORONTO SUN, 9/22). In Ottawa, Roy MacGregor writes, "It would not be an exaggeration to describe Bettman's recent activities as a textbook study in union busting" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/22). ANOTHER SOLUTION? In Toronto, Dave Shoalts writes that owners could slow "the explosion in player salaries" by "simply refusing to renegotiate player contracts." Shoalts points out that a "good portion" of salary increases come as a result of the owners' "acquiescence to increasing player demands" to renegotiate their contracts when they see someone else get a raise. Panthers President Bill Torrey: "When you do that (agree to renegotiate), you're asking for trouble, no question" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/22).
MLBPA Don Fehr held his second meeting in two days with union membership, this time in Tampa. While the intended theme was another show of union solidarity, the "theatrics" of the Tigers' Lou Whitaker, who showed up in a stretch limo wearing an "electric blue" suit, "stole the spotlight." Whitaker "wasn't lambasted, but it was clear he projected an image not favored by union members" (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/22). Whitaker arrived "looking like he had gotten lost on his way to the MTV Awards. ... While many others questioned the message Whitaker was sending, he offered no apologies." Whitaker: "Rolls Royces, limos, big houses ... this is what the game can bring to you" (Phil Rogers, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/22). It was another "chorus of rah-rah solidarity," but Bill Madden writes of the players: "Better they should start imploring [Fehr] to make a deal. ... The players have accomplished nothing by walking out with seven weeks left in the season" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/22). Fehr said without progress in the next several weeks, "the odds that we will not have a normal spring training go up astronomically" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/21). CHARITY SERIES: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said he would take a proposal for a charity World Series between the Yankees and Expos proposed by Montreal businessman Hugh Hallward under advisement. Fehr, on the proposal: "Unless and until somebody on the other side takes it seriously, I'm not prepared to." Expos alternate Player Rep Darrin Fletcher doubted players would be interested. Yankee Player Rep Paul Gibson compared it to a "celebrity softball event." Giants owner Peter Magowan said there's not enough time to gather advertising on TV: "It's not going to happen" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/21). Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he's interested: "We got Yankee Stadium until Oct. 31, and they tell me the field's never looked better" (Jeff Blair, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 9/22). TV TALK: Rudy Martzke reports Nike has a plan to televise five all-star games to be televised during World Series time in October. Nike spokesperson Keith Peters: "There's nothing to announce, but we are trying to put together something that's fun, showcases players and benefits youth sports." Networks involved with baseball (ABC, NBC, Turner and Prime) "likely would pass on the idea or haven't been contacted." Fox, "not wanting to upset baseball owners in the event it gets a chance to bid on the sport after 1995, also can't be discounted." But CBS, with "no allegiance" to baseball after losing the sport, admitted being contacted with the idea (USA TODAY, 9/22). In Chicago, Bob Verdi writes, "in this moment of 'grave economic problems,' it would behoove them to go to the ready-and-waiting Fox while the getting is good." ABC Sports President Dennis Swanson, noting that there is another year left on ABC's and NBC's deal with The Baseball Network: "We have a contract." Adds Verdi, "Yeah, and we used to have a World Series, too" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/22). PLAYER MOVES: The Yankees' Paul O'Neill said he would consider playing in Japan if the '95 season looks to be in jeopardy (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 9/22). The Marlins' Jeff Conine got approval from the union to go to the Marlins' instructional league. His expenses will be picked up by the team (Pedro Gomez, MIAMI HERALD, 9/21).