There was no meeting between suspended Nuggets guard Mahmoud
Abdul-Rauf and NBA officials yesterday, as reported. Instead, the
league reiterated its position on suspending Abdul-Rauf
indefinitely over his refusal to stand for the national anthem,
while Abdul-Rauf released a statement clarifying his position
(Mult., 3/14). This morning's DENVER POST quotes one Abdul-Rauf
"confidant," who says, "The statement may have been step one.
And I look for step two to happen today. I think he will say
something that will get him back to playing basketball." Should
he comply, "it may be because he was convinced to change his
position by other prominent Muslims" (DENVER POST, 3/14).
UNION REAX: The NBPA will file a grievance against the NBA
over Abdul-Rauf's suspension, according to the N.Y. DAILY NEWS.
NBPA Acting Exec Dir Alex English: "The rule the league relies on
was not agreed to in collective bargaining, but was imposed by
the league unilaterally in an operations manual without any input
from the players" (Curtis Bunn, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/14). More
from English: "I feel that the action the NBA took was a little
premature and a bit strong. We could have dealt with it in a
different way" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/13).
ANOTHER MUSLIM PLAYER WEIGHS IN: Hakeem Olajuwon disagreed
with Abdul-Rauf's interpretation of the Koran in regards to
nationalism. Olajuwon: "In general, Islamic teachings require
every Muslim to obey and respect the law of the countries they
live in. ... Islamic teachings is to worship none but God, but
you respect the flag. You respect and honor America. That is
what is distinguished, between worshipping and respect" (HOUSTON
OTHER MUSLIM REAX: Howard Univ.'s Sulayman Nyang: "The
mainstream scholars are clear that you honor the country you are
in, as long as the country protects you" (Larry Witham,
WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/14). Colorado Muslim Council's Mohamad
Jodeh: "Where he gets the interpretation not to stand, I don't
know" ("World News," ABC, 3/14).
LEGAL ISSUES: Asked if the case is a freedom of religion
case, Duke Law Prof. John Weistart notes the constitution does
not apply because the government is not involved. Weistart said
league-union relations is the "forum" in which the matter should
be resolved because it allows the matter to be talked over in a
"private, non-public way" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/13). Attorney
Kevin Baine, of Williams & Connolly, said Title 7 of the Civil
Rights Act is the pertinent statute, not the First Amendment.
The "significant question," according to Baine, "is whether the
NBA is unable to reasonably accommodate Abdul-Rauf's religious
beliefs without undue hardship" (Ken Denlinger, WASHINGTON POST,
NFL owners "don't have a lot to show for their four days of
meetings at the plush Breakers Resort and Beach Club," according
to Paul Domowitch of the PHILA. DAILY NEWS. NFL Commissioner
Paul Tagliabue did approve the experimental use of instant replay
during the '96 preseason, and "the league will experiment with it
unofficially during the regular season." Domowitch notes if they
are "satisfied," replay could return in '97 (PHILA. DAILY NEWS,
3/14). But Thomas George of the N.Y. TIMES notes some owners and
coaches understood if the pre-season experiment worked, it could
be implemented in '96 by a special vote. Tagliabue "insisted"
that was not the case (N.Y. TIMES, 3/14).
LOOSE ENDS: The "hot-button issues" of franchise free-
agency and revenue sharing were left unresolved, and Tagliabue
noted he would convene a special meeting in April to vote on the
Oilers move. In Washington, Leonard Shapiro notes the owners did
"virtually nothing." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson: "I'm exhausted
and we didn't do anything." Asked why the league had yet to
address franchise relocation, Tagliabue said -- "somewhat
testily" -- "It's like [Giants GM] George Young says, 'You want
me to have peace in Bosnia, but you work out the details'"
(WASHINGTON POST, 3/14). A "disgusted" Bucs GM Rich McKay:
"This was a typical NFL owners' meeting" (Tim Panaccio, PHILA.
INQUIRER, 3/14). Wilson: "Call us the National Floating League"
(ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/14). Asked if he was going to
Cincinnati to lobby for the tax increase before Tuesday's vote on
a new facility for the Bengals, Tagliabue said, "Not that I'm
aware of." This "fueled speculation" the league wouldn't mind
seeing the Tuesday sales-tax vote fail, allowing the Bengals to
move (Bart Hubbuch, Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 3/14).
TALK TURKEY: Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt "unexpectedly re-
opened" the issue of the Thanksgiving Day game, including the
discussion as part of his bid to have conference championships
played at neutral sites and to expand the playoffs from 12 to 16
teams. A questionnaire was given on the Thanksgiving contest,
asking owners their thoughts on rotating or adding a game. Lions
COO Chuck Schmidt was "upset" with the timing (Mike O'Hara,
DETROIT NEWS, 3/14).
NEWS & NOTES: NFL spokesperson Joe Browne said the league
expects to house Browns' records and memorabilia in a trust at
the Hall of Fame, while the team awaits a new owner (Akron BEACON
JOURNAL, 3/14)....The Cowboys are likely to play the Chiefs in
the American Bowl in Monterrey, Mexico, this August. The Cowboys
will also play the Oilers in Orlando during preseason. The
Citrus Bowl is paying each team $1M for the appearance (DALLAS
MORNING NEWS, 3/14).... Dolphins Owner Wayne Huizenga "cleared a
major hurdle" on cross-ownership when the Finance Committee
recommended changing the policy. The Committee suggested owners
be allowed to control more than one pro franchise as long as the
teams compete in the same market (MIAMI HERALD, 3/13). ....San
Francisco's "pullout" as host of the '99 Super Bowl is expected
to be finalized this week. S.F. Mayor Willie Brown is expected
to ask for 2002 (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/14).