Saints owner Tom Benson resigned his post as chair of the "powerful" NFL Finance Committee. NBC's Will McDonough notes that the owners are "very upset" about his decision: "Benson is upset at the San Francisco 49ers, he feels they have abused the cap, he doesn't like what Jerry Jones has been doing in Dallas and he told the Commissioner that he is tired of being the policeman in the league. Other owners are prevailing upon him to come back but he said he is going to stay away from the chairmanship" ("NFL Live," NBC, 10/16). McDonough also notes that Benson never wanted Wayne Huizenga in the league and "bristled when the NFL changed its rules to allow him to own the Dolphins" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/16). Fox's James Brown also reported the Benson story, adding: "In a related development, it was also revealed that the Ed DeBartolo Corporation, which owns the 49ers, is a limited partner in a Mississippi River Boat casino. However, a league official has told Fox that this is no violation of NFL rules" ("Fox NFL Sunday," 10/16). WORLD LEAGUE OFFICIALS: Broncos President Pat Bowlen, Lions Owner William Clay Ford, Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt and Patriots President Robert Kraft will represent the NFL on an eight-person World League of American Football Board of Directors. News Corp., the NFL's joint-venture partner in the league, also has four seats on the board (NFL).
Leagues Governing Bodies
"Like two people after a first date, neither the NHL nor the union apparently wants to make the first move and be seen as overanxious or too willing to make a settlement. ... The owners, however, clearly believe [NHLPA Exec Dir] Bob Goodenow and his negotiating committee are stalling, and so [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman is expected to call Goodenow today or tomorrow to arrange some bargaining sessions for this week" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 10/17). The NHLPA claims it "is trying to figure out what can be negotiated." Goodenow: "We thought they were trying to help the small-market teams, but apparently not. Now they say the issue is a salary cap. If that's really the issue, we have a huge problem" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 10/17). PLAYER EXODUS BEGINS: Marty McSorley, a member of the NHLPA's negotiating team, is said to be "very, very close" to signing a deal with the IHL Las Vegas Thunder. McSorley's brother is a Thunder assistant coach. Meanwhile, the Kings said Jari Kurri will return to play in Finland, while the Nordiques have given Peter Forsberg permission to play for his former Swedish League team (AP/Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/17). McSorley's salary reportedly would be between $5,000-10,000/game, but CNN's Mark Morgan noted, "more importantly, McSorley would become the first established NHL player to join a minor league team during the lockout" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/16). Kai Hietarinta, president of the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation and treasurer of the IIHF, responded to the IIHF's position that NHL players will not be welcome in Europe: "We welcome our players back with open arms. The IIHF might not like it" (CANADIAN PRESS/VANCOUVER SUN, 10/15). NOT GOING ANYWHERE: Neil Abbott, agent for Jeremy Roenick, who expressed interest in playing for the IHL Chicago Wolves, said it doesn't make sense "economically" for Roenick to play elsewhere, given the likely cost of insurance (Robert Markus, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/15). LACE 'EM UP: The NHLPA said on Friday that players were free to resume skating. NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister, who denied a "no-skate" directive was ever issued by the union, said returning to the ice "should [not] be perceived as a sign of weakness" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/15). Ranger Player Rep Mike Richter floated the idea of a players' league (N.Y. POST, 10/15). CHICAGO FIRE, PART II? Blackhawk defenseman Cam Russell denied a report from the TORONTO STAR last week that Goodenow had to fly to Chicago "to put out a potential fire" last week in the form of insurrection among Blackhawk players. Russell: "Some guys had some concerns, but there wasn't anybody on our team at yesterday's meetings who expressed any desire to turn against the union" (Robert Markus, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/15). NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister said Goodenow's trip was "not a trouble-shooting mission" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/17). Despite claims of unity, Stephen Harris writes it is "merely a question of time before cracks begin to show in the ranks" of the NHLPA (BOSTON HERALD, 10/14). One "NHL insider": "I give them about three paychecks. Then, they'll be back" (Dave Luecking, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/15). FANS FIGHT BACK: Long Island attorney Paul Kurland, an Islanders season-ticket holder, notified Bettman that he will file a class-action suit on November 1 insisting the owners start the season or issue complete refunds to season-ticket holders (Filip Bondy, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/16).
Former Labor Secretary William Usery, the newly appointed federal mediator for the baseball situation, "made it clear he sees no imminent nor easy resolution." Both Acting Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr appeared with Labor Secretary Robert Reich for the announcement of Usery's appointment. No one could say "precisely when representatives of the owners and the players would resume face-to-face negotiations" (Kathy Lewis, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/15). But Fehr said the most likely date would be tomorrow, if new talks are scheduled at all for this week (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/15). In Boston, Peter Gammons writes, "How absurd is it that the federal government has to get involved in something akin to the battle between Charles and Diana" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/16). FREEZE FRAME: Fehr told reporters Friday that he expects a freeze on player transactions to be imposed over the weekend. But Chuck O'Connor, general counsel of MLB's labor relations committee, said the teams have no immediate plans for a freeze. Selig: "I don't want to get into any of that. We will share all those thoughts with Bill Usery. All relevant questions from this point on will be discussed with Bill Usery." Four players, possibly short of the required six years of service, filed for free agency Saturday: Jim Abbott, Jack McDowell, Erik Hanson and Kenny Rogers. None of the four were accepted by the Player Relations Committee because they did not have the required six years of Major League service. The four needed a full '94 season to complete the sixth year. There are about 170 players who are eligible for free agency; they have until October 29 to file (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/16). CALIFORNIA: The Angels have pledged 5% interest on season ticket advances paid by January 13, 1995, if the start of the season is delayed. It would make interest retroactive to the August 12,1994 strike for season-ticket holders. Angels President Richard Brown: "We kept racking our brains for an incentive to bring the fans back" (Phil Rogers, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/16).
The NBA and the NBPA have been negotiating "secretly for nearly two weeks to try to reach an agreement by the start of the regular season," according to a weekend report in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Key figures on both sides of the table confirmed that talks resumed in late September. The last meeting, according to one official, was last Thursday. Officials on both sides "are reluctant to speak on the record for fear their comments would harm negotiations." NBA Commissioner David Stern "has made it clear he believes the most efficient way to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement is to do so in private." Apparently, progress has been made. One source: "If things weren't going well, everyone would know by now. You would have had someone on one side or the other walk out, and talks would have broken down. That hasn't happened" (David Moore, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/15). WAS A LOCKOUT STERN'S STRATEGY? In Boston, Will McDonough reports that Stern "wanted to emulate" the NHL, "not even open the season, until he was persuaded by the owners to go a different route that could lead the NBA onto the street around Thanksgiving. The story goes that the NBA decided not to impose a lockout until the US Court of Appeals rules shortly on whether the salary cap and draft are in violation of anti-trust laws. ... If the owners are upheld, they will continue to negotiate a new deal because they will have the leverage. If they lose, they will close the league down and try to regain some of that lost leverage." McDonough notes "the betting" is that the league will be upheld in court and the players will have to come to the table, "or go the route of the NFL union, decertifying and taking three years to battle through the courts to try to win like the football players did" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/15). PENNY-WISE, DOLLAR-FOOLISH? In Tampa, Bill Fay writes, "It's interesting when NBA owners speak out indignantly against the outrageous contract demands of agents and then turn around and meet those demands. Not all the way of course." The Magic signed Anfernee Hardaway for about $70M over 9 years -- it is believed to be the "richest contract in the NBA." Magic owner Rich DeVos had "promised that he was going to 'hold the line' in these and all future negotiations" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/16).
In Boston, Peter Gammons examines the view of Harvard Law Professor Paul Weiler that the four professional sports leagues will be broken up, "the way AT&T was broken up." Weiler notes that in '85, the average one-minute long distance rate in the U.S. was 41 cents, but in '92 the average was 14 cents. Weiler: "That's not to say that ticket prices will drop to a third of what they are today. But the impact will force dramatic changes." Weiler, in a previous article, noted that when the courts broke up the NCAA's football TV monopoly, the number of televised games "doubled in one year, at half the advertising price." Weiler: "It could be that in 1995, Congress will take a serious, wide- ranging look at antitrust as it applies to professional sports, and when they start to look, the landscape may never be the same." Gammons notes, "Obviously, the first hit would be the inflated value of sports franchises. Second, the players." Gammons writes that Congress "has never been willing to address" the fact that taxpayers "get ripped off" by sports monopolies. In taking their case to Washington, baseball owners and players are "going to awaken the majority of people in this country who don't care about government protection of baseball -- or any professional sport" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/16). SEARCH FOR MIDDLE GROUND: In a piece that examines the work stoppages in both baseball and hockey, Murray Chass writes that the biggest problem in both sports is the "absence of creativity" in searching for a solution. Agent Tom Reich, who represents players in both sports, proposes a "mechanism that is adjustable to whether salaries are outpacing revenues or whether revenues are outpacing salaries. It should allow for flip-flops that occur from year to year or every couple of years. What's fair at one moment might not be fair at another unless you have a mechanism that treats that spread" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/17). THE BIG PICTURE: In Toronto, David Israelson sees it all as an "industry-wide shakeout, just like, say, banks or the auto industry went through years before. For most pro sports, that means making the final leap from being popular but disorganized pastimes to becoming streamlined entertainment corporations merely marketing a product that just happens to be a game" (TORONTO STAR, 10/15).