After three days of meetings in Herdon, VA, MLB and MLBPA
negotiators recessed until November 28th "to give the players'
union additional time to study the clubs' revised proposal"
(Noble & Heyman, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 11/20). It was "too soon for the
players' union to pass final judgement" on the owners' plan,
which includes a "so-called luxury tax as a cornerstone of cost
savings for the 28 teams" (Larry Whiteside, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/20).
"But both sides did their best to put a respectable spin on what
was accomplished" during the "get-together" (Jayson Stark,
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/20). "Was anything accomplished here
these last three days? It is hard to judge. But perhaps one
good sign is the two sides are not going for the throat" (I.J.
Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONTSITUTION, 11/20).
THE NEXT STEP: The question remains whether the "players
will accept any part of the payroll tax proposal presented" to
them (Claire Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 11/20). The tax rate has two
"thresholds": the average of all 28 payrolls -- $35.6M, derived
by taking 56% of industry revenue -- and a second level, $5M
higher at $40.6M. A tax rate would apply to each team's payroll
and any amount over each "threshold" (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY,
11/21). Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who heads the owners'
negotiating team, remained optimistic. Harrington: "I'm pleased
that [MLBPA Exec Dir] Don [Fehr] and the players are continuing
to look at our proposal for the redeeming effects on their side.
... Our side will go to the next meetings intending to conduct
very intensive and prolonged negotiations. Our goal will be to
conclude them that week" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 11/20).
Fehr, who has taken an "uncharacteristically conciliatory tone
during the past couple of weeks," was "careful not to give the
impression that a settlement" was near (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore
SUN, 11/20). Fehr: "We cannot predict when we come back together
whether we'll be at the state to make a more full response or
counterproposal or what" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/20). MLBPA General
Counsel Gene Orza: "It is obvious that the numbers that they are
plugging into their system so to speak will not fly. The
question is whether the system itself provides a basis for
further discussions" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/18). Orza added,
"I am confident that at some point, we'll make a counterproposal"
(Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 11/19).
ACROSS THE RUBICON? Owners face a crucial deadline in the
next two weeks, as major business decisions must be made by early
December. If there is no agreement soon, it ie the owners will
unilaterally implement their salary cap. One owner: "I don't
know what more we can do. Time is running out. (The union)
rejected the idea of a 45-day freeze. They don't want a salary
cap. And if they don't accept this proposal, or come back with
one of their own, it won't leave us with much choice" (Whiteside,
BOSTON GLOBE, 11/20).
The Mexico Aztecas of the CBA will "begin play as the first
U.S. pro sports franchise based in Mexico." The CBA envisions
itself as building a fan base and an organization for the NBA.
"The reality is that this market really can and should be
leveraged into the NBA's North America expansion plans," said
Douglas Logan, team president and director general of OCESA, the
Aztecas' parent comany. "If the NBA comes here, we see ourselves
being involved, either as a partner or a minority owner.
Somehow." Terry Lyons, head of the NBA's Int'l Public Relations,
said Commissioner David Stern is "on record as saying that Mexico
City is a definite potential expansion site ... after the year
2000." The economic appeal of Mexico is "obvious," as the market
is one of the largest in the world, and the level of people with
disposible incomes has risen. Logan called the CBA's venture a
"controlled experiment," and Doug Clouse, Events Dir for OCESA
said, "We'll test out different promotions, things that we've
been doing in the States for 15 years that people here have never
seen. This is as much an experiment for us as it is for the
Mexicans." Mexicans know the NBA game and its players through
cable TV, but the "NBA's appeal has yet to translate into CBA
ticket sales. ... Sales so far, have been dismal." Goals of
8,000/game are "lofty," but Logan says they are in for the long
haul and can absorb early losses" (Colin McMahon, CHICAGO
"Both sides in the golf war drew lines in the bunkers
Saturday when the World Tour vowed to begin in 1995 and PGA Tour
Commissioner Tim Finchem said he doesn't see how it's possible."
Finchem, who met with World Tour organizer Greg Norman and a
number of PGA Tour players Friday night, released a statement
that said it would be "extremely difficult" to accommodate the
new tour (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 11/20). During CBS' Saturday
telecast of Greg Norman's Franklin Funds Shark Shoot-Out, Jim
Nantz reported that Finchem felt there was a "fair amount of
flexibility" on the part of Norman and World Tour organizers. A
statement from Finchem, as read by Nantz: "We're going to review
our options, and I can only hope if we reach no common ground,
that Greg and his organizers will avoid confrontation and will
look at what's good for the game of golf." Finchem said a task
force is being formed at PGA headquarters in FL and they will
meet with World Tour organizers Tuesday. Finchem also said that
'95 start is "unlikely" and a '96 start would "also be
difficult." Norman, interviewed by Nantz: "We had a good
communication with Tim Finchem ... so only time will tell."
Norman on the perception that these plans came so suddenly to the
PGA Tour: "There was no maliciousness meant. We wanted to make
sure our side was OK, and we did it that way" (CBS, 11/19).
Norman, who left for a vacation in Australia, will not take part
in the Tuesday meeting. The World Tour is scheduled to begin in
'95 with eight $3M tournaments, all of them televised on Fox
(Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 11/21).
BATTLE LINES? Norman's business adviser Frank Williams is
hopeful there is room for compromise with the PGA Tour: "Perhaps
there is a compromise [that] we don't go with as many events in
the first season." But Williams was firm on the World Tour's
plan to start in '95, "no matter what" (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES,
MORE REAX: Arnold Palmer: "My business, if I have any in
this situation, is to be sure that they protect what they have
right now -- and that is the PGA Tour." Peter Jacobsen didn't
think the World Tour would be up in '95, but added: "I think
we're on the right track, everyone's working together right now"
("Shoot-Out," CBS, 11/19). Columnist Thomas Boswell calls the
World Tour a "brazen display of self-interest" from Norman
(WASHINGTON POST, 11/19).
CFL Commissioner Larry Smith said he has talked with
prospective owners in Hartford, CT, and "hopes the city will be
part of the league's expansion plans." Sources indicate that two
CT groups are interested in competiting for a team, but "their
bids might be contingent on the building of a stadium in
Hartford." Smith said a team in Hartford could start up as early
as '96-97 if plans to build a stadium were initiated within the
next year" (Greg Garber, HARTFORD COURANT, 11/19). Last week,
Baltimore's CFL owner Jim Speros met with CT entrepreneur Bill
Berkley about a Hartford team. Speros envisions a U.S. divison:
Baltimore, Memphis, Oakland, San Antonio, Orlando, Birmingham,
Hartford, and Shreveport (Ken Murray, Baltimore SUN, 11/20).
"The next round of talks on the NHL labor front should give
us a pretty clear picture of whether this season will be
salvaged," writes Mike Weaver in Sunday's SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS.
"Continued progress when the sides meet again [today] and Tuesday
could signal an end to the lockout. Another impasse could sound
the death knell for the season" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/20).
"Progress is one thing; a deal is yet another" (Bob McKenzie,
TORONTO STAR, 11/19). One source close to the talks: "This
thing could get done in a few hours if they really put their
minds to it. .. But, and this is a big but, it could be just
about done, something could happen over one single issue and you
could almost be back to square one" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES,
11/19). Despite the new "sense of urgency," neither side "has
indicated a willingness to move off its basic themes" (Larry
Brooks, N.Y. POST, 11/19). "The talks are not at the stage where
issues have been checked off a list, but there certainly has been
movement" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 11/19). The owners'
"hard line" position is now "passe" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 11/19). The two sides meet again today at an undisclosed
location (Mult., 11/21).
OOGA, BOOGA: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes, "All that
still rests in the 500-pound gorilla known as the cap. If the
players remain open to talk and relent on the myriad other
critical issues, especially salary arbitration, then the owners
could harvest enough small gains to give up the cap" (BOSTON
GLOBE, 11/20). One GM "figures if the players are willing to do
away with salary arbitration or drastically change it, the tax
levy might not be as big a deal" (Jim Matheson, EDMONTON JOURNAL,
11/19). In a fax to all GMs, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "made
it clear that 'contrary to press reports, the tax still is on the
table'" (Red Fisher, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 11/19). Dave Fay reports
the league offered to guarantee that the average salary would
continue to rise at the same rate it has over the past few years
-- 17% per season. One player: "I thought that's exactly what
they didn't want" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/20).
OLIVER STONE'S "N.H.L.": In Tampa, Roy Cummings reports on
rumors resurfacing of a "pre-planned 50-game schedule and league-
wide master plan to begin play no earlier than Jan. 1." The
story was reportedly related by an exec from a Canadian NHL team
to a "well-known player from a U.S.-based club on the East
Coast." The plan, said to be hatched in NHL league offices late
this summer, calls for the league to push the players until mid-
December -- at which time they would either take the best offer
on the table or "make one last push" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/20).
NERVOUS FOX EXECS? In New York, Steve Zipay reports on the
"angst" at Fox over the potential loss of the all-star game on
January 21 -- the scheduled debut of the NHL on Fox. The network
has not been able to promote the game and no one is sure how
players will be selected (NEWSDAY, 11/18).
In this morning's BOSTON GLOBE, Kevin Paul Dupont offers his
proposal to end the lockout: the players would receive profit-
sharing based on league-wide total attendance and average ticket
costs on top of the salary levels the owners are presently
guaranteeing, while the owners would gain the cost containment
they are seeking through salary restraints. Assuming league
attendance of 17,545,699 and an average ticket price of $40,
ticket revenue (not including luxury boxes) would be
$701,828,100. Profit-sharing of 15% would yield the NHLPA
$105,274,200. At 46,240 man-games, each player would receive
$2,276 extra per game -- a bonus of approximately 40% for the
average NHLPA member. "Under the scenario offered above, the
union ostensibly can name its price -- bound to increase each
year -- for 'selling' the salary caps, drags, etc., that owners
insist they need." REACTIONS: Dupont faxed his proposal to key
players on both sides. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "Sure, if
we can move ahead with the tax plan we're proposing. ... [Also]
gate receipts probably won't be our biggest growth area in the
years ahead. We're probably looking more in areas such as pay-
per-view, and added dollars from licensing and marketing. But
overall, the notion of cutting them in on something, I have no
problem with that." Bruins Player Rep Dave Reid: "The the
owners can put the price of tickets where they want -- and then
blame the players for it." Capitals GM David Poile: "We can't
keep passing the price on to the fans." Agent Neil Abbott:
"Whether it's pegged to attendance or some other revenue stream,
it would be the owners saying to the players, 'You get to
participate in the pie.'" Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden:
"You should send it to David Stern and the NBA. I mean, you're
only dealing here with a league in a profit position." NHLPA
Exec Dir Bob Goodenow was one of those surveyed who did not
respond (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/21).
USTA President J. Howard Frazer said, while his organization
is grateful for Atlanta's interest in hosting the U.S. Open, "we
have a contract with the city of New York, and we believe it's in
the best interests of the tournament, the city and the fans that
we stay here." Frazer did confirm that the cost of a new
facility will exceed the original $180M "ceiling," but added that
construction on the 23,000-seat stadium was expected to be
completed in time for the '97 Open (N.Y. TIMES, 11/19).